Slaying of two students stuns gang-weary Cicero

Yolanda Estrella often saw gang members driving around her block in Cicero, slowing down when they approached a group of good kids sitting on the stoop.

On Thursday night, two kids were shot and killed. Police say they believe the shooters were gang members, but the kids on the porch were not.

Estrella said she believes gangs felt threatened by the good teens who weren't in a gang.

"They kept an eye on them. I tell my children not to get together as a group," Estrella said. Her children have played with the boys who were killed, Mark Lopez and Ruben Pulido, both 13-year-old honor students.

"I watched them grow up. They were scrawny kids and they didn't dress like gang members."

Cicero police don't know why the group of teenage boys sitting on their stoops on 58th Court in Cicero was targeted.

Two men were in custody Friday night. Juan M. Casillas, 19, was identified by witnesses as the one who ordered the second man to shoot. Casillas was arrested at his home in Berwyn and was charged with two counts of first-degree homicide, police said. Police would not identify the second man, who had not been charged.

Thursday night had been part of a summer ritual for the two boys and their friends. First came shooting hoops in the alley, and then hours of talk on the stoops.

But as the two boys sat with eight of their friends, discussing their plans for a summer day, the sound of a stranger's voice shattered the quiet evening.

Around 10:30 p.m., they heard a cry of bravado announcing the "Latin Counts" street gang, which the boys quickly dismissed as nothing new in the gang-infested town.

Then two young men rode up on mountain bikes. One told the other to begin shooting.

"We didn't pay attention until he said, `Take out your gun.' When I heard that I started to run, and they started shooting," said Edgar Nungaray, 12.

Four shots were fired, and the two honor students at Columbus West were hit in the back. Lopez, 13, sprawled across the cement steps, and Pulido, 13, collapsed in the rear room of the apartment. They died an hour later.

Cicero police did not comment on a motive and have not found a weapon.

DeMaris Lopez, the mother of Mark, tearfully greeted the stream of friends and family at her home to pay condolences.

"I just want to ask the person who did it: What was so bad that they had to pull a gun on 13- and 14-year-olds? I don't know why anyone would hurt him."

Friends created a makeshift shrine of candles and flowers, with the blood-stained blue-and-yellow jersey one of the boys wore.

"He was always a good friend," Jorge Luna, 13, said of Mark Lopez. "He always helped me when I had a problem."