The 10-year-old boy was just getting home from school when he saw the mattress outside. And the jumbo carton of eggs. And his bicycle.
Everything Michael Gaytan and his mother, Cristina, owned was piled up in front of their unit at Las Haciendas Apartments on Las Vegas Boulevard North.
Along with everyone else in the 25-unit apartment community, they were told at 5 p.m. Friday that they were being evicted from their one-bedroom apartment.
At 9 a.m. Monday, a constable informed the residents they had to move out.
“I didn’t believe it,” Cristina Gaytan said as she took a bite of her McDonald’s cheeseburger.
Delen Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the city of North Las Vegas, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “The vast majority of people living here were not paying rent, their leases had expired, there were fraudulent leases, or they were squatters.”
The city also identified several code issues with the property, including illegal electrical hookups and lack of water because of nonpayment. All the windows were boarded up Monday.
“The building is known for gang activity, drug activity, prostitution,” Goldberg said. “There was one arrest.”
Outside the rundown yellow apartment complex with a faulty gate, resident Paloma Castrejon sat in her wheelchair. She said most of the residents were paying rent — at first.
“We put our money through the slot by the office,” she said, petting her 13-year-old terrier, Princesa. “We never got any receipts.”
Six months ago, Castrejon saw a banner in front of the building with a phone number to call to rent a unit. She signed a lease, gave a woman a $250 deposit, $100 for her dog and $400 in rent every month for the studio apartment, she said.
She never saw the woman again.
The main office was broken into, gangs started fighting on the property, and a new owner demanded a second deposit and higher rent from residents, she said.
“Most families stopped paying in October,” she said.
Goldberg said the property owner started the eviction process more than a week ago for nonpayment, and a judge approved it Friday. Clark County records show the owner of the property is Morris Melvin of Hawthorne, California.
“We said, ‘Give us proof that you are the owner,’” Castrejon said. “We had been ripped off and scammed before.”
When contacted by phone Monday evening, Melvin said only that he planned to sell the building.
Castrejon said she and her husband, Julio, moved into an apartment without a stove, refrigerator or electricity.
“There was no way to heat up water to bathe. I had to put an electrical wire in the ceiling to share with my neighbor,” she said.
As she spoke, one of her neighbors, Veronica Flores, who has three children, approached with her husband, Armando Lopez.
Flores and her husband had a lease agreement since August, she said, and paid $525 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. They also were forced to borrow lights from the apartment next door.
“At least it was better than being in the streets,” Flores said, pushing a stroller with her 4-year-old daughter, Esmeralda. Flores said the child was barefoot because the family could not retrieve the rest of their items until Tuesday morning.
Castrejon and Flores planned to take their families to the nearby Casa Blanca Hotel for the time being. Flores said her mom would send her money for the week.
At that moment, Esmeralda announced she was hungry. Castrejon offered her what she had: ramen noodles and crackers.
“But you need it, too,” Flores told her.
Castrejon responded, “But babies come first.”
Contact Briana Erickson at email@example.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @brianarerick on Twitter.