Marina Talamantez had a dream for herself and her family.
“Mom, I want to help you get us out of the ’hood,” she would tell her mother, Renee Talamantez, at the home they shared with seven siblings on College Avenue near Belmont Avenue, a gritty neighborhood in central Fresno with a high crime rate and a strong gang presence.
Marina, 16, was an honor student at SOUL (School of Unlimited Learning), a Fresno charter high school, and she had a strategy to go along with her dream: get a job to help pay family bills, graduate from high school and make a career in the Navy.
A bullet fired by a gang member dashed those plans on Nov. 30, but her family remembers her as a hero who saved her brothers and sisters even as she fell mortally wounded inside her home that night. Services for Marina will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at Word Community Church, 2611 E. Hammond Ave.
Paralyzed from the chin down, unable to breathe or eat on her own, Marina lingered near death in intensive care at Community Regional Medical Center for a month before she passed away on Jan. 2.
Fresno police say Brandon Escobedo, 18, a member of the College Street Bulldog gang, fired the bullet that ended Marina’s life. He is being held in Fresno County Jail on a bail of $5.32 million.
The murder, one of 24 gang-related homicides in the city in 2014, seemed especially senseless and left Fresno Police Jerry Dyer and his top officers shaking their heads when they discussed it during a review of citywide crime in mid-December.
Police and court reports say that Marina was in the family home with her brother and cousin when she noticed that gang members were right outside. The three went outside, where they learned the gang members were in search of a relative who no longer lived there. Marina and the others ran inside and Marina slammed the door. Four shots were fired at the house and a bullet struck Marina behind the right ear.
Renee and Oscar Talamantez had been gone from the home for about an hour when Renee received a call from her son, Adrian. He was screaming.
“Mom, they shot her. She’s dead.”
“I was just shocked,” said Renee Talamantez, recalling the moment. “What do you mean? What’s going on?”
They drove home and found flashing police lights and yellow crime scene tape.
“Cops were everywhere. They wouldn’t let me in,” she said. “I’m her mother,” she remembers saying.
She found out Marina was in the ICU on life support. She was conscious and coherent, unable to move but she could communicate by blinking her eyes.
Renee and Oscar Talamantez spent the next month with Marina. At first there was hope. Marina was alert and appeared mentally strong.
The doctors “wanted me to let her know what was going on with her,” Renee Talamantez said. “And I told her everything. I asked her if she still wanted to fight, and she shook her head, said, ‘Yeah.’ ”
Renee Talamantez said that later in December, after Marina received a tracheotomy to assist her breathing, she began “spiraling down.”
“For two days, she fought. And her last moments, it was so sad ... she opened her eyes long enough for me and dad to tell her that we loved her.
“She was so scared,” said Renee Talamantez, breaking into tears.
Marina died at “11:17 in the morning,” said Oscar Talamantez.
The couple said Marina’s courage was her legacy.
“I would consider her a hero,” said Renee Talamantez. “She made sure the door was shut.
“She was very loved, never had enemies. They robbed her of her life,” she said of the gang members. “They are cowards. Out daughter had to pay for someone’s else’s actions.
“This gang violence has to stop.”