Calif. City Reeling After Educator Slain In Mexico

Students pause next to a photo of late Bobby Salcedo during a vigil on Monday. i i

Students Aldo Vazquez (left), 17, and Juan Guerero, 10, pause next to a photo of late Bobby Salcedo during a vigil at Mountain View High School in El Monte, Calif., on Monday. Damian Dovarganes/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Damian Dovarganes/AP
Students pause next to a photo of late Bobby Salcedo during a vigil on Monday.

Students Aldo Vazquez (left), 17, and Juan Guerero, 10, pause next to a photo of late Bobby Salcedo during a vigil at Mountain View High School in El Monte, Calif., on Monday.

Damian Dovarganes/AP

El Monte, Calif., mourned the loss of a role model and community leader at a vigil on Monday. The city has been hit hard by the brutal slaying of Bobby Salcedo, who was abducted and killed along with five other men while vacationing in Mexico last week.

The 33-year-old was a popular educator and school board member in his hometown, just outside Los Angeles. In the working-class, largely immigrant community, Salcedo served as an example of success.

He was a product of the town's public schools who came back to teach. He rose to the position of assistant principal and later was elected to the school board.

El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero says Salcedo gave everything to his town.

"Not only did he grow up here; he chose to stay here and make his home in El Monte, and he was just a bright, shining star for our community, and it's just a tragic loss," Quintero says.

Salcedo is believed to be the first elected U.S. official caught up in the violence of Mexico's ongoing drug war.

Last week, Salcedo was vacationing in Durango, Mexico, with his wife in her hometown, Gomez Palacio. They were out with friends at a local bar when gunmen burst in and kidnapped Salcedo and five other men. The next day, all were found dead, their bodies dumped near a canal.

Mexican authorities say it looks like the work of a drug gang. Salcedo's family says Bobby was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

His brother Juan says Bobby had been traveling to Gomez Palacio for years without problems.

"He did a lot of fundraisers for that city, as ironic as it is," Juan Salcedo says. "Fundraising for orphanages, for the fire department, an ambulance for that city, school supplies, shoes ..."

Salcedo and his wife, Betzy, were married there just a year and a half ago. She says she is devastated by the loss of her husband.

"I would like people to remember him as a great educator," Betzy Salcedo says. "He believed education was the solution to our problems."

She says Salcedo's main goal in life was to inspire young people and help them get into college.

And he appeared to have inspired many, if the thousands who filled a football stadium for his vigil were any indication.

The school marching band played its fight song, and speaker after speaker told stories of Salcedo's incredible drive and commitment to the youth of El Monte.

Students like Crystal Delgado wrote remembrances on dozens of posters hanging from the football field fence.

"He wasn't just a teacher; he was a friend," she says. "He was always there for us, especially when I needed help. ... He was someone great who I will always remember."

Delgado was in Mexico when she heard about Salcedo's murder. She says she is more cautious in Mexico now than ever before.

Jose Barrajas, who was also at the vigil, says he no longer travels home to Mexico. He says Mexico isn't like it used to be — you don't know who is good or who is bad.

Salcedo's relatives say they have no confidence that Mexican officials will find Bobby's killers. They urged everyone at the rally to call members of Congress and put pressure on Mexico, so that their loss, and that of El Monte, won't be in vain.

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