DETROIT — Marisol Ramirez cried as she watched her 2-year-old grandson clutch a stuffed teddy bear attached to a light pole on the corner of Vernor in southwest Detroit on Monday night.
She cried because the toddler was unaware that the teddy bear he held was part of a makeshift memorial erected in memory of his father, Andres DeJesus, 19, who was fatally shot Sunday by another man at the annual Cinco de Mayo parade, in advance of Monday's holiday.
A 24-year-old man was arrested Sunday in connection with the homicide and is being held at the Detroit Detention Center. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office said Monday that it is reviewing a warrant request in the case. DeJesus died of a gunshot to the chest, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office.
"My grandson don't even know what's going on," Ramirez said, sobbing, while watching the 2-year-old eat an ice cream cone. "I can't even be strong for my kids.
Ramirez, 33, said DeJesus was at the parade with the 2-year-old when he was shot.
"That's all he was doing, was taking his son there," she said. "He was a good kid."
Investigators haven't confirmed the shooting to be gang-related, but police said DeJesus has had an affiliation with the Latin Counts. His aunt, Aurora Garcia, said he hadn't been with the gang since he was 13.
"I don't know anybody who could be that cold," Garcia, 39, said Monday. "This violence is not doing anything. It's tearing everybody apart."
Police made their presence known Monday evening in southwest Detroit as authorities prepared for possible retaliation for Sunday's fatal shooting.
Police spokesman Adam Madera said an extra police presence was already planned for Cinco de Mayo festivities in Mexicantown on Monday, but police gang intelligence and high-crime units joined regular police.
As scout cars cruised and patrolled nearby streets, about 50 or 60 people, most of them young, gathered around the makeshift memorial. A police car sat on the corner across from the memorial, monitoring the crowd.
A steady stream of friends and family members hugged and offered condolences to Ramirez and to Tiffany Mcintyre, DeJesus' girlfriend. Some people in the crowd had shirts emblazoned with DeJesus' picture.
Ramirez said the pain of losing her son has left her numb.
"I feel like I can't even live my life anymore," Ramirez said. "He was my baby. I grew up with him. They shot my baby. They took my baby. They took my firstborn."
Ramirez was 14 when her eldest child, Andres, was born. She said she was immensely close with her son because in some ways, they grew up together since she was a young mother.
"I just left the Medical Examiner's Office and had to ID him," she said. "This just broke my heart."
Ramirez admitted that her son had a troubled past and "messed up" a few times, including a brief stint in Wayne County's Juvenile Detention Center.
But, she said, he was working hard to turn his life around for his family — which consists of his 2-year-old son and 19-year-old Mcintyre, who is nine months pregnant with their second son.
"He wanted to go back to school," Ramirez said. "I didn't want him to leave like this."
DeJesus was shot shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday near crowds in front of Brown's Bun Bakery. He died at a nearby hospital, police said.
"There apparently was an argument between the victim and the suspect's family, which escalated to the shooting," Madera said Sunday. The officer said it appeared the shooter was sticking up for a member of his family when the shot was fired.
Mcintyre said she's in disbelief, but is trying to recall happier times from the five years they were together.
"I'm trying not to cry so much," she said. "It's just so hard."
Angel DeJesus, 24, a friend of Andres DeJesus but not a relative, said Sunday's violence stemmed from a conflict during a previous Cinco de Mayo. The parade draws large crowds from area neighborhoods.
"Anybody who is looking for anybody will find them on Cinco de Mayo," she said.
She said the neighborhood where she lives, which is walking distance from where the shooting occurred, has become increasingly violent.
"It's all the time, for nothing," she said of the violence.
Garcia said Andres DeJesus started a group last year called Always Strive and Prosper, intended to help young people steer clear of gangs. Family members said he was unemployed.
"He was pulling guys out of gangs and trying to reunite them into families," she said.
DeJesus was known among friends as Noodles. On a sign near the scene of the shooting, people wrote tributes: "Love you Noodles you will always be in my heart!!" and "I love you brother gone but never forgotten."
Luis Ortiz, 22, said he was heartbroken when he heard his friend was shot during the parade.
"He was one of those laid-back, chill type of dudes," Ortiz said, adding that he frequently talked about his 2-year-old son.
Benjamin Hidalgo, 18, a cousin to the victim, said he'd been hanging out with him, watching floats pass by minutes before the shooting. He heard a gunshot, looked over and could tell by the victim's hair that it was his cousin on the ground.
"Everybody knew him as a funny person," he said, adding that his cousin liked basketball and designer clothes.
Hidalgo said his cousin was the oldest child of eight. Garcia, who is Ramirez's sister, said her nephew was especially close to his mother.
"They raised each other; they had that bond that nobody can break," she said. "It's like she just lost her partner in life. ... I don't even know how to comfort her."
Contributing: Gina Damron, Detroit Free Press