Shooting victims weren't gang members, friends say

Minnesota State-Mankato's Nick Canzanello, left, and Colorado College's Tyler Johnson were in a scrapping mood during the second period Saturday night at World Arena. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE

Two teenagers who were slain east of Colorado Springs on Thursday were trying to break up a fight when they were shot by a gunman wielding an SKS rifle, their friends and relatives said, disputing an account from the El Paso County Sherirff's Office that described them as gang members."They were best friends, and they were always together and they left together," Alonso Burciaga said of the victims, his 17-year-old brother Luis Burciaga and 18-year-old Uriel Rascon.A witness told family members that Rascon was intervening in a fight near Cimarron Eastridge Park when he was shot. Luis Burciaga was targeted as he grabbed his wounded friend, Alonso Burciaga said.More than 200 people gathered Saturday night for a candlelight vigil held where the pair were gunned down, a vacant lot near the park in the Cimarron Hills area. The group tearfully recited prayers and sang in Spanish as sheriff's deputies kept watch from unmarked vans nearby and patrolled the streets bordering the park.Lt. Lari Sevene, a sheriff's spokeswoman, said the two were shot by a rival gang member, 19-year-old Juan Vasquez, during a brawl that involved as many as 20 people and stemmed from the theft of an iPod music player.Vasquez is being held at the El Paso County jail on an immigration hold.Relatives of Buciaga's said that the two friends were not involved in a gang and that they went to the park to protect a friend.Rascon, a senior at Sierra High School, was described as a good student and a caring friend."He was really caring, really responsible. He was like the best guy friend you could have," said Carla Vasquez, 18.Burciaga -- known to friends as "Guero" -- attended an alternative school called The New Horizons School. He was a budding rapper who planned to join the Army or go to college, friends said."He was a good boy. He wasn't involved in gangs. He had a lot of dreams," Burciaga's mother, Guadalupe, said in Spanish. Her son translated.Mourners on Saturday night stood in a large circle around framed photographs of Rascon and Burciaga and listened quietly as speakers called on them to let the deaths pass without retaliation."They told us not to resort to violence," said Burciaga's cousin, 14-year-old Gabriela Sanchez.Two car washes will be held today to raise money for the funerals. The fundraisers will begin at 9 a.m. at two El Ranchito locations, at 1714 Monterey Road and 3970 Airport Road.

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