13-year-old boy killed by stray bullet into his bedroom in Pasadena

A 13-year-old boy was killed by a stray bullet while playing video games in his bedroom on Saturday night, further alarming a community that has been pushing for an end to gun violence.

The shooting occurred at 6:12 p.m. in the 900 block of North Raymond Avenue, near Mountain Street, when the bullet was shot through a window, said Pasadena Lt. Bill Grisafe.

The boy was in a first-floor room facing Raymond Street playing video games when three to five shots were fired nearby, at least one of which hit him, Grisafe said.

The child, Iran Moreno-Balvaneda, walked out of his room and collapsed in the living room, said Maria Balvaneda, a family member and neighbor. His siblings saw him and fetched their parents. The boy’s father took the wounded and bleeding youngster into his arms.

“It’s an absolute tragedy for our community,” Pasadena Police Chief John Perez said. “This 13-year-old was innocent. He was doing what 13-year-olds do, playing video games in his house.”

The target of the shooting was unknown, but it did not appear to be the boy, he said. Investigators had no information on any suspect as of Sunday afternoon.

Jovita Gonzalez, 62, lives next door and heard two gunshots Saturday evening. She walked outside and saw the boy’s parents waiting for help to arrive.

His father stood motionless, apparently stunned, while the teen’s mother screamed and wept in their front yard, Gonzalez said.

“Without saying anything, she reached out and held me,” Gonzalez said. “She was pointing here, at her lung, and screaming, ‘They hurt my boy,’ and kept asking if the ambulance was here.”

Neighbors described the boy as an intelligent teenager who liked to play soccer. Pasadena City Councilman John Kennedy said he was told the teen was a straight-A student. The boy lived with his parents, two brothers and a sister. The family has lived in the neighborhood for at least 15 years, Gonzalez said.

She and other nearby residents said there have been numerous shootings in the neighborhood over the past several months.

“We’re tired of it,” Gonzalez said. “I can’t even go out front with my dog anymore because I’m afraid I’m going to get shot.”

Metal bars guard the window of the yellow house where the boy lived, in the middle of a tree-lined block populated by older homes on North Raymond Avenue, a major thoroughfare.

Memorial candles were lined up Sunday morning near the Pasadena home of a 13-year-old boy killed by a stray bullet while he was playing video games in his bedroom on Saturday night, Nov. 20, 2021. (Photo by Eric Licas, SCNG)

“My heart is really breaking for this woman whose 13-year-old boy was just killed,” said lifelong Pasadena Resident Lisa Lewis, 57. “And he wasn’t doing nothing, never seen it coming, just like my son.”

She and her relatives had just held services for her son, 24-year-old Jamal Lewis, on Friday, the day before Moreno was killed.

Jamal Lewis was supposed to meet his mother at her home near Hammond and Summit to watch football, like he did every Monday, on Oct. 25. Lisa Lewis heard about seven gunshots, something not uncommon, sounding like they came from down the street.

Later that evening, authorities summoned her to a hospital, where she found her son brain dead and barely surviving on life support.

“I don’t want my son’s death to be in vain. I don’t want anyone to label him,” Lisa Lewis said. “He wasn’t a gang-banger.”

In late October, four separate shootings in the city that left four men injured sparked an emergency meeting with Pasadena Police Department leaders, City Manager Steve Mermell and members of the City Council at the Jackie Robinson Community Center.

The incidents spurred nearly 100 mothers, youth leaders and other local dignitaries to turn out and express their fears concerning the dangerous trend.

The shootings appeared to be gang-related, according to Grisafe, who said detectives were working to identify the suspects and were looking into whether the shootings were linked.

“Preliminary information suggests these shootings are not random acts but rather gang members involved in a conflict,” he said at the October meeting.

At Jackie Robinson Park, youth football players were forced to crawl across the field to shelter in a nearby shed. More recently, students at the Boys & Girls Club near Fair Oaks Avenue sheltered in place after a bullet struck a window.

From Jan. 1, 2019 to June 30, 2021, Pasadena police responded to more than 300 “shots fired” calls and nearly 400 calls of gun-related crimes which include robberies with guns, assaults with guns and gun possession. Nine people were fatally shot and about 30 were wounded during that period, Grisafe said.

In the months since, officers have seized almost 700 firearms, he added.

“It’s an affront, an attack on the whole community when something like this happens,” Kennedy said Sunday of the gunshot that killed the boy, noting that it happened in a community that’s seen an “undue amount of criminal activity,” and has left some residents questioning whether they want to remain in Pasadena.

“We’re looking at all the available video that we have,” Chief Perez said Sunday at a news conference at City Hall. “There’s so much we have to look at, because there’s hours and hours of it. … We go from before and after (the shooting) and we pull so much from so many places, it takes a lot of time. And so we still have to go back today and knock on doors and try to find more.”

Police urged anyone with information about the boy’s shooting to speak up. They are encouraged to call Pasadena Police at 626-744-4241 or provide information anonymously by contacting Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477) or http://lacrimestoppers.org. People can also send tips via the P3 Tips mobile app.

Staff writer Ruby Gonzales contributed to this report.

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