Thousands gather in El Monte to remember school board member killed in Mexico

Students of the El Monte community join in a candlelight vigil at Mountain View High School.
Students of the El Monte community join in a candlelight vigil at Mountain View High School.
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

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Several thousand people turned out for a vigil last night to remember 33-year-old Bobby Salcedo, the El Monte school board member gunned down last week while visiting Mexico with his wife. KPCCs Shirley Jahad was at the football field at Mountain View High School.

Family, friends, and former students of Bobby Salcedo filled the bleachers and half the football field at Mountain View. This was the school where Salcedo graduated as student body president, and where he returned 10 years later to become vice principal.

"That was just a big way of him giving back to the community," said Roger Pasillas, campus Supervisor at Mountain View High. He worked with Salcedo. "We're all saddened. It's a big loss to the community. Very awesome person, teacher always here for the kids. It's hard especially coming to work. But I'm sure up there he wants us to be strong and be here for the kids because that was his number one thing – the students."

Salcedo was at dinner with his wife Betzy and her medical school classmates in Gomez-Palacio – her hometown in the Mexican state of Durango. Gunmen burst in and abducted Salcedo and five other men. A few hours later, police found six bodies near a canal.

Bobby and Betzy Salcedo were married a year and a half ago in Gomez-Palacio. Betzy stepped in front of reporters and read a statement in Spanish. Salcedo's sister, Griselda Jefferson, translated, saying the family "would like people to remember him as a great educator. Education was, he believed, the solution to our problems."

Salcedo's brother Juan says Bobby loved visiting Mexico. "He did a lot of fundraisers for that city, as ironic as it is. Fundraising for orphanages, fire department, school supplies, shoes, medical supplies, wheelchairs."

Bobby Salcedo was remembered over and over again as a person quick to volunteer, an educator, a man who tried to inspire and bring people together. He was also remembered as a man who tried to make people laugh, a practical joker, a Dodgers and Bruins lover, a lover of life, a student working on his PhD.

He had an impact that stayed with people, among them 26-year-old Roxana Medina. "It's just a very tragic loss. I had him as a senior in high school. I graduated in '01. It's a tough loss this community is going through right now." She is crying as she talks and says she has strong memories even though he was her teacher eight years ago. "Yes," she says. He was "motivational and inspirational to all students."

The family is collecting donations for the Bobby Salcedo Memorial Fund, which will provide college scholarships to students in the El Monte area. Funeral services for Salcedo are expected Thursday.