News

A search for justice

Alex Rojas-Garcia, an advertising major, was shot and killed Jan. 24 in Feltonville. His family is committed to telling his story.

Alex Rojas-Garcia’s sister Aleida Silva-Garcia (left), son Alex Jr., sister Enid Rojas and daughter Brianna hold candles at a vigil for him in Feltonville on Feb. 7. | JENNY KERRIGAN TTN

Aleida Garcia was calm at her son’s funeral. She was calm during the viewing and other moments of mourning, she said. But her attitude changed at the vigil for Alejandro “Alex” Rojas-Garcia, her 34-year-old son who was killed on Macalester Street near Hunting Park Avenue on Jan. 24 when his car was sprayed with bullets by a suspect whose identity remains unknown.

On Saturday, a crowd of about 50 gathered at the scene of the shooting, in front of a police impound lot and a short walk from a bar where family believe Alex was headed for a drink. The victim’s mother was illuminated by several candles which cast her shadow on a memorial hung on the lot’s chain-link fence, tipped with barbed wire.

“I am committed to finding justice for my son, for that person who pulled a gun on my son,” Garcia said. “I give you my word here today, standing in front of the place that my son died, that I am committed to justice. And I want you all to be with me.”

Alex, an advertising major and father of two, transferred to Temple this semester from the Community College of Philadelphia, where he graduated with honors.

Temple released a statement on the loss of the new student. “This is a terrible tragedy,” the statement read. “In Alex’s short time at Temple, he had a huge impact on his classmates and faculty, and he will be missed. We extend our sympathies to Alex’s family and friends and are keeping them in our thoughts during this time of mourning.”

Alex went by several nicknames at one point or another in his life, including “Luchi” and “Lex,” relatives said at his vigil. He wrote rap songs for a group called Latin Linxx earlier in his life and had recently posted a song of his own, titled “Lost,” on Soundcloud under the name “Luchie Luciano.”

He came from a family full of Temple alumni, including his mother, grandmother and sister.

“In our family, education is very important,” his sister Aleida Silva-Garcia told The Temple News. “That was something that he held very strongly in his heart.”

Alex’s father Wilfredo Rojas echoed that statement. “Alex cared about people and he cared about getting himself an education so he could come back and help people,” Rojas said.

Alex loved to fish with his friends and especially with his 14-year-old son, Alex Jr., who spoke at the vigil.

“Me and my daddy used to always hang out, go fishing, do everything together, ” he said. “Now that he’s gone, I don’t have any father to spend time with.”

Alex’s relatives are turning his death into a launching point for gun control and anti-violence advocacy. His parents, who are no longer together, both said at the vigil that they hope the future holds reform of gun laws and efforts to stop further violence on city streets.

Temple trustee and mayoral candidate Nelson Diaz, a former judge and an influential figure in Philadelphia’s Latino political community, attended the vigil and spoke to the crowd, continuing the anti-violence message of Alex’s parents.

“You have the opportunity to stop this from continuing,” Diaz told the crowd. “Let Alex be the one that stops these freaking guns from being used … let’s not forget this.”

Diaz told The Temple News that parts of the city could be safer if they were more like Temple’s Main Campus. Across from the police impound lot on Macalester Street are abandoned buildings and overgrowth.

“We don’t have as many problems around Temple as we do in North Philadelphia,” Diaz said. “We know how to protect our citizens: great lighting, people on the beat, bicycles. We know how to do it. So why don’t we do it? It’s so perplexing to me.”

Alex’s father, Wilfredo Rojas, an NAACP official in Gloucester County, New Jersey and former prison social worker, said he had organized vigils for other shooting victims before.

“I never thought that I would be at a vigil for my own son,” Rojas said. “I always organized vigils for everybody else.”

He added that he will continue searching for answers in the case and will seek justice for his son through educating youth.

“In the Rojas family, we don’t get angry, we get even,” Rojas said. “We get even by educating their kids, the criminals’ kids, and we get even by praying for them. And we get even by assuring that there will be justice.”

The family has set up a page on GoFundMe to help raise money to cover funeral costs. That site, gofundme.com/JusticeForAlex, has raised about $2,700 of its $10,000 goal in 11 days.

Police, meanwhile, are still searching for a suspect. On Monday, they released footage from the A-Lounge bar’s surveillance cameras that shows four persons of interest. A male can be seen leaving with three females. No names have been released. There is a $20,000 reward available for any information leading to an arrest.

The family encourages anyone with information to leave a tip at 215-686-TIPS, with the option of submitting anonymously.

Joe Brandt can be reach at jbrandt@temple.edu and on twitter @JBrandt_TU.

Lian Parsons, Patrick McCarthy and Jenny Kerrigan contributed reporting.

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