Victor Valencia said he was overwhelmed with tears of happiness, anger and sadness on Friday, Sept. 17 when gang member Narcisco Gatica was found guilty for the murder of his brother, DePaul honors student Francisco “Frankie” Valencia.
Gatica, 21, was found guilty of first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.
When Gatica was convicted, Victor Valencia said he was “genuinely happy.”
“It was one of the first times I had been happy in a long time,” the 19-year-old brother said. “But at the same time, I was overwhelmed by depression and sadness, and even more so by anger,” he said. “Anger because reality sets in. Anger because of the fact that they gave no defense. Anger because it doesn’t make life any better … and it doesn’t make this any easier.”
“In some respects, I was relieved,” he added. “I didn’t have this sitting on me anymore. The air felt thinner, it felt lighter. It felt like things weren’t so dark anymore because he was found guilty on all charges.”
Frankie Valencia was murdered at a Halloween party in 2009 after gang members were asked to leave the private party. Gatica, along with self-admitted Maniac Latin Disciple Berly Valladares, 23, left the party and returned with a TEC-9 semiautomatic handgun. According to Chicago police, Valladares gave the gun to Gatica, who then open fired, shooting Frankie Valencia twice in the chest and once in the arm and wounding Daisy Camacho, a good friend of his.
Frankie Valencia was pronounced dead later that morning.
In a videotaped interview with police two days after the murder, Gatica changed his story several times, first denying being at the scene.
Gatica then confessed to being the gunman, claiming he thought he was shooting at rival gang members.
Gatica later plead not guilty.
“What really bothers my family and I is that we had to go through this trial a second time, essentially for no reason,” Victor Valencia said. “There was no defense and we had to relive that night and that day … we were going there for the entire week,” he said. “We saw pictures of the autopsy and watched videos, the security footage … of my brother getting shot.”
“We had to relive that night again and again and again … for no reason,” the 19-year-old brother said.
Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Shlifka told the jury in his closing arguments to focus on Gatica’s changing story in the video taped interviews saying it showed the “shifting sands of a guilty mind,” he said.
It did not matter whether Gatica was shooting gang members or someone like Frankie, Shlifka said. “When you perform this type of act, you know it is a deadly act to another person,” Shlifka said, “It doesn’t matter who he was shooting at.”
“The trial was very difficult to sit through,” Victor Valencia said. “Most of the time, my mother or I—or whoever had to get up and leave the courtroom because it was just so overwhelming to see the pictures and see the video,” he said adding, “All and all, we got through it together, got through it as a family. That is what is really important.”
Frankie Valencia, a political science student and RA at Clifton/Fullerton Hall, was an active member in the DePaul community. Frankie Valencia was chosen as a Lincoln Laureate, an annual award given to an outstanding student at each of the state’s four-year universities who show excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities.
Assistant public defender Marijane Placek claimed the gang made Gatica the “fall guy” because they knew he was trying to leave the gang.
“We definitely plan to appeal,” Placek said. “My young man was trying to get out of the gang,” she said. “Now his child will grow up without a father in that exact same neighborhood.”
Gatica is the father of a 3-year-old son.
“A lot the times, what people don’t realize is when children grow up with a father in prison, the children grow up looking at authority figures as the enemy,” Placek said. “This is a victory for the gangs.”
Gatica faces a minimum of 45 years for murdering Frankie Valencia, plus an additional six for shooting Camacho. Last June, Valladares was sentenced to 70 years in prison for aiding in the murder.
“People always say justice isn’t served,” Victor Valencia said. “But there really is no justice in this. I don’t get my brother back and his family is loosing him. Where is the justice from this?”
Victor Valencia said he wants Gatica to have a strong sentence, “but that comes from an anger I have towards him because of what he did,” he said. “I don’t feel like it is going to make anything better. I don’t feel like a strong sentence is going to make me feel better.”
“I just want him to be able to feel a fraction of what I have felt this past two years for the rest of his life, ” the brother said. “I am carrying this with me for the rest of my life. It isn’t just going to go away one morning and I am going to wake up and everything is going to be better,” he said. “He doesn’t get that and he never will.”
“All I can do is hope that at some point, he feels some sort of remorse for this, because as far as I have seen, he has shown no remorse, nothing,” Victor Valencia said. “This is normal for him,” he said. “He doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand the pain that has caused my family and I.”
Placek said, “If the appeal is unsuccessful, then Mr. Gatica won’t see the light of day until he is 65.”
“When this happened we almost expected the world to stop for us,” the 19-year-old brother said, “everyone was going to take a break, and hey, like everyone time out, we need some time to catch up, but it doesn’t. That doesn’t happen. The world keeps turning. People keep living their lives. Everyday for everyone else is normal. It is just us falling behind. We have to work extra hard just to keep up,” he said. “Oftentimes, it feels like the world is against us because a lot of people don’t understand.”
“Before Frankie’s death our family was very family-oriented, but after the murder that all changed,” Victor Valencia said.
“We have a broken family now,” Victor Valencia said, “I feel helpless.”
“Our family used to be really close, that used to be the most important thing to me and to brother, Frankie and my siblings. We were all about family,” Victor said. “But since this has happened my family is broken up, I don’t see my family very much at all.”
To Victor Valencia, Frankie Valencia’s death is now his everyday life, but to his cousins it is not, he says. “It is hard for them to be around me without seeing it and being reminded by it.”
Victor Valencia said that while his family is still invited to family parties and social events, “it is not the same atmosphere for us. We don’t feel as comfortable because we feel like there is something missing … and there is,” he said. “I am really good at putting up a front, getting ahead of my emotions and pretending everything is okay. When I am with my family, I shouldn’t feel like I have to do that, and when I do, it just shows it is false.”
“I have come to terms that this is reality is now,” Victor Valencia said.
Victor Valencia said in some respects Frankie’s death pulled his immediate family closer together. “Because it is the world against us, we are more united,” he said. “We have more patience for one another, more awareness and more space.”
After the trial, Victor Valencia said his family held a special event in honor of Frankie Valencia where they invited family, Shlifka as well as two women from his office, and Frankie Valencia’s fraternity from DePaul. “We brought Bears balloons for my brother,” Victor Valencia said, “he was a huge Bears fan, huge,” he said. “You couldn’t pull him away from a Bears game if the house was on fire.”
Frankie Valencia was dressed as a Bears fan for Halloween on the night of his death.
Family, friends, and people from DePaul came to the trial, Victor Valencia said, “all people who were inspired by Frankie, all people who were moved by him, people he had touched in the short time he was here.”
Frankie Valencia volunteered on the South Side of Chicago for various communities and in Colombia helping abandoned children. After Frankie Valencia was killed, President Obama—whom Frankie tirelessly campaigned for—wrote a letter to Frankie’s family “detailing how he and Frankie were kindred spirits, how they shared similar values and ideas,” Victor Valencia said.
“To receive something from President Obama, to know that he knew who Frankie was,” he paused. “That was so amazing. That was powerful for us.”
“He always said he was born and raised in Chicago and was going to live and die in Chicago,” Victor Valencia said. “As sad as it is, it is true that it happened” he said, “He felt he could make the most change in Chicago. He felt he could have the biggest impact here.”
Frankie Valencia’s lived by his quote: “‘We are the future. How will you be remembered?’ and he held true to that,” Victor Valencia said. “The youth of Chicago, the youth of the world. We are the future, we are part of a legacy and we all want to be remembered by something, in some way, by someone,” he said.
“Frankie challenged us to do that,” he said. “He challenged us to be remembered and to make change in our own lives that could effect the world.”