(The photo above, from Getty Images, is a reenactment of the Battle of Puebla in Mexico.)
Cinco de Mayo is a holiday of Mexican origin originally conceived as a celebration of the Mexican victory over French troops in Puebla despite their being heavily outnumbered. Despite its being a relatively minor holiday in Mexico—it technically isn't even a federal holiday—Mexican-Americans living in the United States have adopted it as a celebration of their Mexican culture and heritage. The holiday is known for heavily libated celebrations, which also includes Americans who use the day as an excuse for a good party. Here are five murders that took place on Cinco de Mayo.
1.. Alleged Cheeseburger Murder in Florida
[Photo: Osceola County Jail]
Last year the then 25-year-old Benjamin Angus Middendorf was charged with first degree murder after he allegedly shot and killed his brother, Nicholas Middendorf, 28, over an argument about a cheeseburger. According to FOX News, in the 911 call released by the St. Cloud Police Department, Benjaman Middendorf said, "we were in a fight and I grabbed a gun and I shot him. Oh my God!" His mother is later overheard saying, "I'm going to kill my son" and "I hope you go to jail!" Benjamin Middendorf admitted to being in an argument at a Cinco de Mayo Celebration, but said at this point he "didn't recall" whether he had shot his brother or not. He pled not guilty to first degree murder. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Benjamin was awaiting trial as of last September in the the Osceola County jail.
Jose "Joe" Torres, a Mexican-American Vietnam War veteran was shot and killed by police in a bar on May 5th, 1977 after the bar's owner called the police to report Torres for disorderly conduct. The police then allegedly took Torres to a location known as "the Hole," where police were rumored to physically abuse Latinos and other minorities. Later that night, the city jail demanded that Torres be taken to Ben Taub General Hospital and refused to admit him. Two days later, Torrey's body was found in Buffalo Bayou. Two of the officers involved, Terry Deneson and Steven Orlando, were found guilty of negligent homicide and received one year of probation as well as a $1 fine. One year later, a Cinco de Mayo celebration in Houston's Moody Park erupted into one of the worst riots in Houston's history. The Moody Park Riots resulted in dozens of arrest and significant property damage to local businesses and police vehicles. According to an ABC news report, one police officer suffered a broken leg after being struck by a car and two reporters were injured by being hit in the head with a brick and being stabbed in the leg, respectively.
3.. Drunk and Disorderly in Riverhead
[Photo: Suffolk County Police Department]
At a Cinco de Mayo party in Riverhead, Long Island in 2012 a visibly intoxicated 29-year-old Miran Yohana Garcia Mansilla left a Suffolk County bar with Guillermo Alvarado-Ajcuc. Alvarado-Ajcuc led Yohana, as her family called her, to a wooded area and strangled her with his canvass belt after she fought back against his attempt to rape her. Newsday reports Assistant District Attourney Glenn Kurtzrock said in his opening statement at Alvarado's trial, "he took off his canvas belt and wound it around her neck. He tightened and tightened it until he choked the life out of her. Her body was found two days later by DMV employee Lourdes Alvarez, who discovered the body when she was checking for poison ivy in a side lot where she parked her car outside of work. Alvarado-Ajcuc did not dispute that their encounter in the woods led to Garcia's death, but he did dispute the circumstances under which it happened, arguing at one point that she had been the aggressor, not him. According to The Riverhead News-Review, he claimed to have been "too drunk" to know what was happening. Speaking through a translator, he said, “It wasn’t my intention. I hope some day they are able to forgive me.” Alvarado-Ajcuc told jurors that the day after the murder, but before Garcia's body was found, he told witnesses at a deli that he was nervous that he'd "hurt a girl." Alvarado-Ajcuc, an undocumented day laborer from Guatemala, is currently serving 25 years in prison, the maximum sentence allowed.
4.. Silent Witnesses In Colorado
[Photo: Colorado Department of Corrections]
In the spring of 1997 near Denver, Colorado, 17-year-old Jose Leyva and a small group of others were cruising up and down Federal Boulevard, as part of a Cinco de Mayo celebration when their car broke down. Cruising has become a popular part of their Cinco de Mayo celebration, and at the time had become known for its proclivity towards violence. In an interview with police, Angela Bustos said: "They [the cruisers] seem to pretty much do what they want and are out of control." As Leyva was pushing his car off the street, a fight broke out Leyva was shot and killed in the crossfire, struck by a bullet from a gun tied to Angelo Diaz, who had also been implicated in the drive by murder of 23-year-old Carlos R. Luna five years earlier. In the case of Luna's murder, more than three witnesses, according to The Denver Post witnessed the murder, but none were willing to identify the shooter, ostensibly out of fear of retaliation, Five years later, Diaz was identified as Leyva's killer and sentenced to 48 years in prison.
5.. Gang Violence in Detroit
Andres DeJesus, known to his friends as "Noodles" was just nineteen when he was shot and killed at a Cinco de Mayo parade in Detroit which he was attending with his to year old son. The shooting was possibly connected with gang violence, as according to USA Today DeJesus had been affiliated with gangs since the age of 13, and had ties to the Latin Counts at the time of his death. DeJesus was the oldest of Marisol Ramirez's eight children and left behind his two year old son as well as his girlfriend of five years, Tiffany McIntyre who was nine months pregnant with their second son at the time. McIntire says DeJesus has plans to go back to school. According to police, DeJesus was shot in an argument between the victim and the unidentified shooter's family. Angel DeJesus, a friend of the victim, said the shooting was connected to a conflict at a previous Cinco de Mayo gathering, which are prone to violence due to the large concentration of people from various neighborhoods it attracts. Aurora Garcia, Andres DeJesus's ant, said that DeJesus had started a group called Always Strive and Prosper to help young people avoid getting involved with gangs.