MIDVALE, Utah – As police search for a man who police say gunned down a teenage brother and sister during an argument over a T-shirt late Wednesday at a Salt Lake City suburb apartment complex, family members are mourning the senseless killing of siblings who shared a tight bond.
Jose Izazaga, 16, was shot after he came to defend his sister Abril Izazaga, 15, with a knife as she was being pushed around by a person in a group of people of about the same age, said Lt. Lex Bell of Salt Lake County’s Unified Police Department. Another man with the group fatally shot the siblings, Bell said.
The man who started the confrontation by accusing the girl of taking a shirt has turned himself in, but he hasn’t yet been arrested. Investigators believe they know who the shooter is, but they haven’t found him yet, Bell said. The names of the suspects were not immediately released.
The siblings’ older brother, Kenny Lopez, 22, said the boy who started the confrontation was a longtime friend of Jose Izazaga and spent a lot of time at the house. At one point, he lived with the family when he didn’t have a place to stay. He said he and the others were “tweakers” who might have been on drugs.
Bell said investigators don’t know yet if the suspects were using drugs.
“It’s senseless. It’s stupid (expletive). You can replace as many T-shirts as you want,” Lopez said Thursday. “You can’t replace two people’s lives.”
The brother and sister were the youngest of nine siblings, Lopez said. Abril had just finished her sophomore year at Hillcrest High School in Midvale, where she was an honor roll student, Lopez said. She wanted to be a nurse or doctor. Jose had finished his junior year and hoped to become a firefighter or travel the world and study animals, he said. They both had birthdays this month.
“They both would protect each other to death, as you can see,” said Lopez, fighting back tears at the apartment complex. “They were both strong. They were both good kids. I’m going to miss them. They hadn’t even started their life yet.”
Family and friends gathered in the courtyard of the apartment complex, hugging, crying and placing items on a makeshift memorial that had flowers, Virgin Maria candles and a homemade cross.
A priest arrived at one point and gave a prayer and blessing as everyone huddled around the memorial. Lopez cried, his head down in prayer.
Neighbor Bridget Torres said the apartment complex is a calm place where most residents get along and children play outside until dark. Most families are Latino and Spanish-speaking in the complex, which is about 10 miles south of Salt Lake City. Now, Torres said she doesn’t plan let her three kids outside to play at night.
Torres’ sister, 12-year-old Brisa Gutierrez, heard the gunshots and screams while she was watching kids play out her window Wednesday night. “It’s sad what happened to her,” Brisa said.
Bell said more information may come out through the investigation about underlying issues that led to the confrontation. But he called it senseless that somebody would kill a person over a T-shirt.
“There’s no piece of property on earth that’s worth somebody’s life,” Bell said. “This is just unbelievably tragic to have started like that. An argument over a shirt that resulted in the loss of two young lives is almost absurd.”
Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this story.