Mothers of Murdered Youth held a candlelight vigil for the six people killed after a gunman opened fire at a birthday party in eastern Colorado Springs on Mother’s Day. Police said the shooting — the deadliest in the city's history — was an act of domestic violence. (Video by Skyler Ballard)

Everything was normal when Freddy Marquez left the birthday party that his in-laws were throwing for his wife, Nubia, and her brother, Melvin, at about 10 p.m. last Saturday.

The family barbecue celebration was relaxed, he said.

“We were having fun talking,” Marquez said. “We had a camping trip to Nebraska planned with Melvin and (his wife) Mayra and their children.”

A few hours later, his mother-in-law, Joana Cruz, 52; his brother-in-law, Melvin Perez, 30; Melvin’s wife, Mayra Ibarra De Perez, 33; and three siblings from a related family would be gone at the hands of a shooter they all knew.

“Words can’t describe it or explain it,” Marquez said Thursday while walking to a candlelight vigil for the six adults who were killed in the early hours of Mother’s Day in what constitutes Colorado Springs’ deadliest mass shooting.

But Marquez came up with one word: “Horrific.”

About 200 people assembled Thursday night outside the fenced mobile home park, Canterbury Manufactured Home Community in southeast Colorado Springs, clutching candles, crosses and each other.

At a memorial set up outside the home where the shooting occurred, framed photos of the victims sat surrounded by dozens of votive candles and flower bouquets.

Mourners were there to honor those who lost their lives when the 28-year-old boyfriend of Sandra Ibarra-Perez, Mayra’s sister, allegedly walked into Marquez’s in-laws' residence and fatally shot Ibarra-Perez and five other adults in the home, but spared three children who were inside. One adult, Cruz's husband, was in the bathroom and escaped the bullets.

The victims also included Sandra’s brother, Jose Ibarra, 26, and Melvin’s brother, Jose Gutierrez, 21.

Marquez said he only met the suspect, Teodoro Macias, once.

“Nothing stuck out,” he said. “We never heard anything was wrong.”

Macias was upset because he hadn’t been invited to the party, Colorado Springs Police said earlier this week. Macias had been dating Sandra for the past year, authorities said, and he’d had some type of “conflict” with his girlfriend’s family at a gathering about a week earlier.

In a scene that stilled the air, except for intermittent weeping, several related teenagers — who were at the party but who had stepped away to a neighbor’s before the shooting happened — walked down the middle of the street for several blocks from the shooting site to reach the vigil.

They marched in a line, carrying a poster with the faces of the three siblings, 28-year-old Sandra, Mayra and Jose Ibarra.

Police labeled the tragedy, which became a murder-suicide as Macias fatally shot himself after the others, an act of domestic violence.

“I just wish that this family could have reached out for services before this tragedy happened,” said Lucia Guillen, of Centro de La Familia, which provides counseling and advocacy for crime victims in the Latino community.

Domestic violence accounts for roughly 85% of people who seek help from the organization, but the problem often goes unreported, leaving victims with few options, she said. The organization normally assists up to 1,000 people annually, but fewer came looking for help during the pandemic.

Whether the hesitation pertains to immigration status or stigma, her group works to provide whatever support victims need.

“They don’t have to be afraid. They have to report those incidents, or they need to seek help from organizations like Centro de la Familia,” she said.

Mothers of Murdered Youth sponsored the vigil, which founder Jennifer Romero said was a time for the community to gather, pray and talk.

“The family is suffering greatly, but the community feels their pain,” she said. “I hope this brings peace to the community.”

Kristine Camacho was a friend of Jose Ibarra’s. They had spoken last Friday, two days before he was killed. They both graduated from Mitchell High School in 2013 and were in JROTC together.

“He was just a very kind person, and caring,” she said, holding back tears.

“She’s heart-broken,” said her mom, Laura Jacobo, who accompanied her daughter to the vigil in support.

Jacobo's prayers have been centered on the family members who are left.

“I cannot imagine what they are going through,” she said.

Some didn’t know the victims but showed up to add their individual light during a dark time in the city’s history.

A woman named Anna carried two tall candles, one depicting St. Jude, known as the patron saint of desperate cases, and another plain white.

“I’m a mom, and I don’t have the words to say how the family is hurting,” she said. “He’s not here (the shooter) to explain why, so it’s harder to think how he could have done something like this. We still can’t believe it.”

Among those in the crowd was Cheri Swann, who came to pay her respects to Nubia Marquez, who previously supervised her at a McDonald’s restaurant in Colorado Springs. Knowing that someone "so kind and so patient" had lost her mother and two siblings in a single act of violence hit hard, she said.

"My heart just stopped," she said, before approaching Nubia Marquez at a memorial at the shooting site to give her a hug and pay her condolences.

A split second of senseless violence can turn many lives upside down, said The Rev. Clifton Turner to the masses gathered.

“We can’t make sense out of this nonsense,” he said. “We need you, Lord. Help us to help each other.”

Colorado Springs City Councilor Yolanda Avila and El Paso County Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez Jr. said community leaders offer their support to the families and others affected by the incident.

“It’s so disturbing,” Avila said, adding that she was a victim of domestic violence in 1983.

“If the perpetrator had had a gun, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said. “This has been a tragedy that’s unspeakable. Words are hard.”

Gazette reporter Lance Benzel contributed to this article.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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