Violence against street vendors remains an issue with their exposure keeping them vulnerable to violent attacks. Over the weekend 45-year-old Lorenzo Perez was shot and later died in the hospital from his injuries according to Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama. Police are currently searching for a suspect who allegedly shot and killed Perez on Sunday afternoon and stole some unidentified items from the vendor. Balderrama announced during a press conference on Monday morning that Perez leaves behind a wife and four children ages 15, 13, 9, and 1.
“This senseless violence and targeting of our city food vendors needs to stop,” Fresno City Councilmember Luis Chavez said in a statement. “A family is mourning because of the actions of a coward that would, in cold blood, murder a man that was doing nothing more than earning a living for himself and his family…What makes this more cowardly and concerning is the fact that this incident took place near a day care center and neighborhood school.”
MayorJerry Dyer said there is a collective reward of $21,000 after crime stoppers contributed to the reward, Your Central Valley reported. Balderrama described the suspect as an adult black man, 6’2″, in his late teens or early 20’s. “When (Perez) goes into his belongings to pull something out, a black male shoots him in the head, basically execution-style,” Fresno Police Lt. Israel Reyes said, ABC reported.
Perez’s death is one example of some of the most recent violent attacks of street vendors in the U.S. and in particular in California and Los Angeles. The average street vendor in LA makes only a little over $10,000 a year, and only about $200 a week, the California Globe reported, yet often these attacks are tied to robberies. In 2020 at least two street vendors were killed in Fresno, the Fresno Bee reported, with Jose Rivera shot multiple times on Nov. 20 and Francisco Velasquez was shot in the leg on Oct. 18. Adelaido Bernabe Urias, a 70-year-old paletero, was shot and killed in August 2020 in Austin as they tried to rob him.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that decriminalized street vending in California starting in 2019, the bill is also known as the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act. The bill states vendors cannot be banned from working in a park, cities can’t determine where they operate, and they no longer need to ask adjacent businesses for their permission.
The fact that vendors are such a staple in communities, especially communities of color, and are known to work with family members means predators can easily target them. FOX reported that according to witnesses the attacker gestured for Perez, who was on his bicycle, to come over to him. Witnesses told officers that the man seemed to have been lingering in the area as if he was waiting for Perez to arrive. The publication reported that Perez was known in the area and would often have his daughter helping him though she was not with her that day.
“That’s four children who are going to grow up without a father due to a ruthless act of violence,” Dyer said during a press conference.
A GoFundMe was set up for his family and to cover funeral expenses with a goal of $100K.