Video: El Paso school mourns students slain in Mexico

  1. Transcript of: El Paso school mourns students slain in Mexico

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: In El Paso , Texas , hundreds of students gathered today at Cathedral High School for a memorial service for two American teenagers. They were killed just across the border in Mexico . Sixteen-year-old Carlos Mario Gonzalez , 15-year-old Juan Carlos Echeverri were visiting a friend over in Juarez , Mexico , last weekend when all three were shot and killed at a car dealership. Juarez , which borders El Paso , had 3,000 murders last year alone during this ongoing drug war.

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/8/2011 9:26:15 PM ET 2011-02-09T02:26:15

Two of the three teenage boys who were shot to death in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez had crossed the border from Texas for a party, then stayed to buy a car, a friend said Tuesday.

The boys were killed at 4:22 p.m. Saturday while looking at cars in a dealership in the city across the border from El Paso, Texas, Chihuahua prosecutors' spokesman Arturo Sandoval said. One was found inside a white Jeep Cherokee and the other two in the courtyard.

Carlos Mario Gonzalez Bermudez, 16, was a sophomore at Cathedral High School in El Paso, said Nick Gonzalez, the Roman Catholic brother who is the principal. Another victim, Juan Carlos Echeverri, 15, had been a freshman at the private all-boys Catholic school last year but left to study in Ciudad Juarez, Gonzalez said.

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Both were U.S. citizens, he said.

The third teenager was identified as Cesar Yalin Miramontes Jimenez, 17.

A fourth young man also was with the teens and survived the shooting, but now fears for his life and is seeking refuge in the U.S., Gladys Luna, the grandmother of Echeverri, told The Associated Press.

Luna said her grandson and three friends had stopped at a dealership Saturday afternoon in one of the world's most-dangerous cities, after spotting a car with wheel rims that caught their eye.

"A group of boys or young men, not sure how many, came and asked for the owner of the car dealership," Luna said. "The workers said they didn't know and they started running, hiding."

The group that had asked for the dealership's owner then opened fire at the business that sits not far from the border separating El Paso and Juarez. At least 60 bullet casings were found at the scene.

Luna, who went to Juarez after the shooting Saturday, said she spoke with the survivor, who told her he hid under a car. She said he told her that her grandson was the first one hit by bullets.

"They had nothing to do with this. They had just stopped there to look at cars," Luna said.

Cathedral High student Arturo Yanar said Tuesday that he was friends with Gonzalez and Miramontes, and that they had been at a party together Friday night. He told The Associated Press that he didn't know Echeverri.

He said he returned to the U.S. after the party and that the others stayed because Gonzalez wanted to buy a used car.

Dozens of bullet casings
There were no leads on suspects or a motive, Sandoval said. Two managers were also in the dealership during the attack. One refused to give a statement, while the statement from the other manager was not released because of the pending investigation, Sandoval added. At least 60 bullet casings were found at the scene.

The nationality of the victims was unclear. Echeverri's father, Juan Carlos Echeverri Sr., said his son was a U.S. citizen and asked for justice, the El Paso Times said, citing a voice mail message.

The principal at Cathedral High said Gonzalez Bermudez mainly lived in Ciudad Juarez and commuted each day across the border. He said 20 percent of the 485 students enrolled at Cathedral are from Ciudad Juarez.

Gonzalez said the school's sophomore class had a prayer service Monday and officials planned a rosary service for the entire school later in the week.

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"It's a lot of pain, a lot of sorrow, a lot of tears, a lot of coming together as a community to try to hold each other up and to try and make sense today," Gonzalez said. "How do you make sense of this meaningless tragedy? Hopefully this can really empower us to make a positive change in the border community because their deaths will have no meaning otherwise."

Many Ciudad Juarez residents travel across the border on a daily basis for work or study. Some Mexicans live in El Paso for safety reasons and commute to Ciudad Juarez.

"We're in the middle of this crisis in Juarez," Gonzalez told the Times, "And Cathedral opens its arms and its doors to a number of kids who are in this diaspora.

"I'm in awe of their love of Juarez, their anger at the injustice and their determination to survive this and to return and rebuild," he added.

Violent weekend
Ciudad Juarez has become one of the world's most dangerous cities amid a fierce turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels. More than 3,000 people were killed last year in the city of 1.3 million residents.

Gonzalez said students at the school have had a number of relatives killed in the violence in Ciudad Juarez. A graduate of the school was killed last fall, he said.

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"Our Juarez kids knew all three" of the teenagers killed over the weekend, he said. "It's a very tight-knit community. A lot of them car pool; that's how they know each other."

The Times report noted that the teens' murder was one of three triple homicides in Ciudad Juarez that weekend.

One shooting at a garage left three dead, including a 13-year-old boy, the newspaper said.  The other incident involved a teenager, a woman and a 40-year-old man, the Times reported, citing the Chihuahua state attorney's office.

Three others died in separate shootings, the report said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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