Edith Guzman spent last Mother’s Day enjoying a brunch outing — a treat from her youngest son, Jose de Jesus Alatorre Guzman.
This year is different. She and her family have made no plans for Mother’s Day this year.
As she recalled the brunch, the 57-year-old mother said her son’s gesture was nothing out of the ordinary for the 19-year-old athlete and aspiring sports medicine practitioner. No matter how busy he was with his friends or his girlfriend, Alatorre Guzman always carved out time for his mother.
“He was a very kind and giving person,” Guzman said. “Everybody was so proud to know him. They couldn’t believe he was 19 and wanted to be next to Mom.”
Three days after the brunch outing, on May 11, 2016, Alatorre Guzman was shot.
He was pronounced dead at University Medical Center a few days later. That anniversary falls on Mother’s Day this year.
Guzman and her older son, Jose Guzman, 26, spoke with the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week at the Metropolitan Police Department’s Bolden Area Command substation. Bolden officers are waging a campaign this month to remind the community that Alatorre Guzman’s killer has never been caught.
The interview was marked by heavy silences. Each time the Guzmans recounted a funny anecdote about Alatorre Guzman, laughs and smiles quickly turned to tears and sighs.
Guzman said Mother’s Day is just the latest family holiday to take a backseat while the family grieves.
“Last Thanksgiving the kitchen was closed,” she said.
Jose de Jesus Alatorre Guzman was born in San Jose, California. He was premature, weighing only 2 pounds, his mom said. The teen’s nickname, “Peque,” means small and turned out to be an amusing misnomer, as he was built for football.
Like his brother, he was named Jose, after his father. But the younger Guzman was given a second last name.
“It’s a long name but beautiful,” Edith Guzman said.
The family described him as a smiling, joyful boy. He was a jokester who played pranks on his father around Halloween, enjoyed making his classmates laugh, and loved poking fun at his big brother.
When relatives came to visit, Alatorre Guzman was the one who drove them around, the family tour guide.
When her sons were children, Guzman said, she brought them to the Bellagio for Take Your Child to Work Day. But it became clear quickly after she started her shift as a housekeeper that the pair were too rambunctious.
“That was the last time they let us take them to Bellagio,” she said, laughing as she wiped away a tear and looked at photos from that day in the memorial photo album made at the funeral home. “Thanks to Peque, no more.”
“He could be an annoying little brother,” the elder Guzman boy said, chuckling. “When he knew I was going to get in the shower, he would run in there and beat me to it.”
He said his little brother’s shooting last year was “nothing like we had ever experienced before. Nothing that we had prepared for.”
Alatorre Guzman called 911 himself after he was shot. Las Vegas police and paramedics were dispatched at 9:17 p.m. on May 11, 2016.
He had been walking on Vermont Avenue, near the intersection of Minnesota Street and Washington Avenue, when a man driving a black sedan stopped to talk to him briefly, shot him one time in the chest and drove away, police said.
Tears of relief
Guzman was notified by her husband several hours later.
“My husband was, I think, in shock. He didn’t know how to tell us,” she said. “It was very hard.”
Alatorre Guzman fought for three days before doctors decided it was time to take him off life support. His family was with him the whole time, and the teen’s friends and teachers packed the hospital’s waiting room.
“I don’t know where they came from, but there were 60 people in the lobby. They had to get security,” Guzman said. “Different religions, they came, and they asked me if they could say a prayer. I said everything is welcome here.”
The family decided to have the teen’s organs donated right before he was pronounced dead, partly so they could have a little more time with him.
“So we spent nine days, 24/7, by his bed,” the mother said.
Eight transplants were done with her son’s organs. Guzman received a letter in February from a woman who received her son’s pancreas. The woman had been diabetic her whole life and had two children.
“My son gave them a new mom,” she said. “I had tears in my eyes, of course, but it was a relief that my son was still living through somebody.”
Jose Luis Guzman has a large tattoo of his little brother’s senior portrait on his forearm.
“I loved him very much, and I miss him a lot,” he said. “Football season was not the same without him.”
He said he and his little brother bonded over football, especially their NFL team, the San Francisco 49ers.
That was something the teen, an outside linebacker and tight end for Western High School, shared with his friends.
“He turned a lot of his classmates into 49ers fans too,” Guzman said. “He took what me and him had to some of his friends who didn’t have older brothers. So he was like their older brother, like their role model.
“Now I see them and they’re all 49er-ed out.”
He promised his little brother that he would take him to see the team at their home stadium after he graduated. It was his way of motivating his brother to succeed, and it seemed to be working.
Alatorre Guzman was going to work as an intern at Sunrise Hospital Medical Center over the summer before starting college.
‘We need justice’
While her son was in the hospital, Edith Guzman was not concerned with the police investigation. Then all she cared about was her son, but that has changed over the last year.
“My first fear is this case might go cold, and I don’t want that,” she said.
Police have not made any arrests in the case or even identified any suspects. Bolden Area Command officers are not giving up, however.
“Every morning they wake up with questions. Every day they think about it,” Sgt. Dave Watts said. “Somebody out there knows something. Somebody out there’s got that secret packed away.”
The substation put up a billboard about Alatorre Guzman near U.S. Highway 95 and Las Vegas to keep the case fresh in people’s minds.
“At this point anything helps. We’re running short on leads,” he said.
For Edith Guzman, justice is less about emotional closure and more about public safety. She said a person who would kill a man just for walking down the street will probably kill again.
“We need justice to prevent more killings,” she said. “Nothing is going to bring him back; we know that.”
Still, no one deserves what happened to her son, she said.
“I will beg the public: If they know something, say something.”
Contact Wesley Juhl at firstname.lastname@example.org and 702-383-0391. Follow @WesJuhl on Twitter.
Justice for Families
The Metropolitan Police Department’s Bolden Area Command holds monthly Justice for Families events to highlight unsolved cases with the hope of getting new information from the public.
This month officers are highlighting the shooting death of Jose Alatorre Guzman, 19, who was killed a year ago. The teen’s friends and loved ones, as well as community members, are invited to participate in a memorial march and vigil starting at 5 p.m. Monday on the corner of North Minnesota Street and Kansas Avenue.
Sgt. David Watts, with Bolden’s community policing unit, said the ultimate goal is solving the case.
“Anything that may seem insignificant to anybody could be something huge for the investigation,” he said. “So if you have any information, if you heard anything, if you saw anything in the neighborhood that night, please reach out to our homicide investigators.”
Bolden crime prevention specialist Omar Lopez has been working with Alatorre Guzman’s family on the memorial event and said he wants to reach as many people as possible.
“Even just hitting the share button helps spread the word,” he said.