Fernando Martin Mendoza-Avila spent much of his teen years in hospitals and at dialysis centers.
The 21-year-old drive-by shooting victim was diagnosed with lupus around age 15, a chronic inflammatory disease that affects various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys.
For Mendoza-Avila, his kidneys were failing. When he was , Mendoza-Avila was just a few weeks away from a life-changing kidney transplant, his family said Tuesday, after the men accused of killing Mendoza-Avila appeared in court.
"He was very sick," his sister, Daisy Mendoza, said.
Mendoza-Avila was walking from a family gathering in the Bonita Drive area of Aptos, crossing Highway 1 on Freedom Boulevard when someone in a passing car opened fire. Mendoza-Avila was struck with multiple bullets. He died at the scene.
"He was never in a gang," his sister said. "He was respectful, friendly."
Sheriff's detectives arrested three men on suspicion of the shooting, which allegedly was gang-motivated.
Alfredo Alanis Garcia, 21, of Prunedale is accused of driving the car involved—his own gray Honda sedan. Rafael Barron, 20, of Las Lomas allegedly was a passenger and Christopher Herrera, 21, of Prunedale is accused of firing the deadly shots, according to investigators.
Before the shooting, the men had been smoking marijuana in Garcia's car and were returning to the Watsonville area when they allegedly shot at Mendoza-Avila, according to the Sheriff's Office.
All three were in court Tuesday to face charges of murder, gang participation and gun charges.
Herrera, who has a tattoo of lips on his neck and close-cropped dark hair, is also charged with personal use of a firearm. That makes the case a possible death penalty case, but District Attorney's Office has not made a decision about pursuing the death penalty.
Defense attorneys were appointed Tuesday for Herrera, who will be represented by Art Dudley, and Barron, who will have an attorney from the Public Defenders Office. Brian Worthington of Salinas is representing Garcia and has said .
Judge Stephen A. Sillman banned photography in the courtroom mid-way through the proceedings based on objections from attorneys. The lawyers were worried about spreading the men's faces around before the investigation, including photo line-ups, were finished.
Garcia, Herrera and Barron did not enter pleas and the case was put over until June 19.
Outside of court, Mendoza-Avila's family said the young man leaves behind two daughters, ages 18 months and 4 months. They are burying him Tuesday afternoon.
"It's going to be a great loss for our family. We're going to miss him greatly," a woman who identified herself as Mendoza-Avila's cousin said. She declined to give her name for fear of further violence.
For all of Patch's coverage of the deadly drive-by shooting, click here.