Maricela Gamez was working with her husband and son at their stereo and jewelry shop on East Kings Canyon Road Saturday evening when three young males came in and asked to look at some jewelry. Then they tried to bolt out the door with the jewelry.
Gamez said she screamed for help. Her husband and son ran out and, as the three robbers – Gamez called them boys – retreated, father and son grabbed one of them. The son, Christopher Leon, 22, held onto that robber while his father tried to pursue the other two.
But as Leon held on, the robber was able to get his gun out and shoot Leon in the mouth, mortally wounding him. He died two hours later at Community Regional Medical Center, Fresno police said.
On Sunday, Gamez recounted Saturday night’s tragedy as several dozen friends and family members gathered outside their store, Stereo and DJ Outlet/Mari’s Jewelry, to mourn Leon’s death and add a little memorial of candles, flowers and photos of him. The family planned a candlelight vigil Sunday night in front of the store.
Gamez pleaded with the crowd that if they knew anything about the robbers to please come forward. Her son, she added, was a hard working man who did not deserve this.
“We talked to him and said if he didn’t want to continue installing then we would pay him to go to school,” Gamez said. “But he said ‘no this is what I grew up in. I want to be in here.’ But I never thought my own place (business) was going to take his life.”
On Sunday afternoon, Fresno police Sgt. Larry Bowlan announced that detectives had recovered the suspect vehicle and arrested two juveniles in connection with the robbery and slaying. Police are still seeking leads on other suspects wanted in this case. Anyone with information is asked to contact homicide detectives Tony Rivera at 559-621-2442 or David Porcella at 559-621-2435.
Gamez said she hadn’t yet told her youngest son that Leon had died, although the boy keeps asking if his older brother is OK.
Leon’s older sister Margie Martin, 36, said her brother was always a happy and hard working person and was loved by everyone.
“He was trying to save and protect what he has here, where he grew up and worked all his life,” Martin said. “He was trying to protect our mom.”
Sal Mohammad, 25, owner of Kings Canyon Market, located in the same shopping area, said he knew Leon very well and was hanging out with him an hour before he was shot. Mohammad said Leon was grabbing a bite to eat and promised Mohammad he would be back later.
Then came the shooting.
Mohammad said he stepped outside and saw Leon’s mom kneeling over him.
“He was a good guy, he never did anything wrong. He just works here everyday with his mom,” Mohammad said. “He would stop by our store all the time. He was like a brother. I just never thought that he would end up like that.”