Cristian Velasquez, left, and Manuel Barbarin, right, are suspected of killing 14-year-old Lareanz Simmons in February 2012. Their booking photos were released by Riverside police on Feb. 5, 2015.

Cristian Velasquez                   Manuel Barbarin

About three years after shooting victim Lareanz Simmons (14) collapsed in his grandmother’s driveway, two men have been charged with his murder. Cristian Velasquez (23) and Manuel Barbarin (24) have both been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the February 23rd, 2012 killing in Riverside, California. They are expected to be arraigned on March 6th, 2015. Prosecutors are alleging that the crime was a gang-related hate crime and a murder that benefited a criminal street gang. Babarin and Velasquez are already serving time on unrelated charges.  Officials have said the defendant’s gang, “East Side Rivas,” has targeted blacks in the past and some are describing the street wars as being racial and black against brown. Velasquez’s uncle, George Avila, has adamantly said that his nephew is not a racist and that Cristian grew up in a household where black nurses regularly cared for the uncle who used a wheelchair and that he drove to work with a black co-worker. Of course, both defendants are presumed to be not guilty.

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