A 14-year-old Fresno boy shot to death at a birthday party last week had been caught in the middle of a dispute between rival gangs and was not the intended target, police said Thursday.
Family members on Thursday recalled Anthony John Martinez as a shy, quiet boy who dreamed of becoming a police officer or firefighter, or maybe an artist.
"He was only a kid, and he really wasn't sure what he wanted to be, but he would tell me he just wanted to go to work when he grew up so that he could take care of me," said Anthony's mother, Sonia Martinez, as she held a snapshot of the boy taken a few months ago.
"He wasn't much into sports, but he loved to go fishing and camping and play video games," said Martinez, 34. "And he loved my lasagna."
Never miss a local story.
Anthony, known to family and friends as "Ant," was born in Fresno and was a seventh-grader at Tehipite Middle School. He was shot Friday night while attending a relative's 16th birthday party in southwest Fresno.
His mother said Anthony left their southwest Fresno home Friday afternoon with a cousin to attend the party in the 200 block of West Florence Avenue. He had asked permission to stay there overnight.
Martinez said there was no reason for concern; her last words to her son were, "OK, be careful."
Fresno police Lt. Mark Salazar said about 20 people were at the party when an argument broke out between two small groups, one consisting of Sureno gang members and the other consisting of Bulldog gang members or associates.
Anthony is not believed to have been a gang member, Salazar said. He said most of the people at the party were not gang members.
The argument spilled over to the 200 block of West Geary Avenue, where a person belonging to the Bulldog group pulled out a gun and started shooting, he said. The shooting was reported at 11:17 p.m.
Anthony was hit in the upper body and was taken to Community Regional Medical Center by someone who had been at the party. He was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
"He was really a good kid," said Anthony's grandmother Paula Astorga, 54.
"He loved to draw," said sister Selena Martinez, 13.
On Wednesday, Salazar announced that the department was looking for Julio Adrian Zaragoza, 19, of Fresno, an alleged member of the Bulldog group attending the party.
Zaragoza has been charged with murder, with bail set at $1 million. He is believed to be driving one of two vehicles: a 1998 dark Mustang, license plate number 5LMM149, or a 1996 green Nissan Quest, license number 4RHD675.
Anthony's mother said she has never met Zaragoza.
Anyone with information about Zaragoza's whereabouts or about the case may telephone detectives Marcus Gray at (559) 621-2441 or Brad Alcorn at (559) 621-2442, or Crime Stoppers at (559) 498-STOP.
Anthony's other survivors include his father, Andres Martinez Jr.; sisters Starr, 9, and Seleste, 6; a brother, Andres Martinez III, 8; grandparents, Angel Astorga, and Andres Martinez Sr. and his wife, Herlinda; and great-grandmother Henrietta Mottern, all of Fresno.