By Associated Press - Tuesday, February 8, 2011

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Two of three teens shot to death at a car dealership in Mexico over the weekend had crossed the border from Texas for a party in Ciudad Juarez, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, then stayed overnight to shop for a used car, friends in El Paso said Tuesday.

Arturo Yanar said he went to the house party with Carlos Mario Gonzalez Bermudez, 16, and 17-year-old Cesar Yalin Miramontes Jimenez on Friday night.

Arturo said he decided to return home to El Paso after the party in the early hours of Saturday morning, while his two friends stayed on in the city in Chihuahua state to look at cars. He said Carlos had been talking about buying himself a car for months.

“It was a fun night, a great night. At least we had fun one last time together,” Arturo said, sniffling.

Arturo is a 16-year-old sophomore at Cathedral High School in El Paso, where Carlos also was a sophomore student. He said he didn’t know the third victim, 15-year-old Juan Carlos Echeverri, who had been a freshman at the same high school last year.

Carlos and Juan were American citizens. Cesar’s nationality was not immediately clear.

The three boys were gunned down at the car dealership just across the border from El Paso on Saturday afternoon. At least 60 bullet casings were found at the scene.

Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for Chihuahua prosecutors, said authorities have no leads on suspects or a motive.

Ciudad Juarez is the center of 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.

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

Arturo said he grew up in Juarez but had moved to El Paso 18 months ago. He said his father had forbidden him from returning there but that he violated the order to hit the party with his friends.

“It just gets worse there, and I’m scared,” he said of Ciudad Juarez. “When I walk around, I look back, I look sideways. I always think there’s someone following me.”

Arturo and another friend, Javier Martinez, 17, said that Carlos and Cesar had no problems with gangs or drugs and that they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“He was very brave; he had a lot of courage,” Javier said of Carlos, fighting back tears.

Cathedral Principal Nick Gonzalez said 20 percent to 30 percent of the school’s 485 students regularly cross between El Paso and Juarez, despite the dangers.

“I was afraid but, at the same time, resigned that something like this was going to happen,” he said. “No one here is shocked, I don’t think.”

The principal said his students still love the city and “haven’t given up on Juarez, or on their lives there.”

“That’s why, despite the parental warnings, they go,” he said. “It’s their identity, it’s who they are.”

He said several of his students have lost relatives in the violence in Ciudad Juarez. A graduate of the school was killed last fall, he said.

Juan was a student at the Radford School in El Paso, enrolling last fall as a sophomore, Principal John Doran said.

Mr. Doran said Juan was the first boy at the private school of 165 students to be killed in Juarez.

“This is a small school, so everybody knows everybody,” Mr. Doran said. “This is just very hard.”


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