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Behind bars: How some juvenile offenders make Yakima a dangerous place to live

Behind bars: How some juvenile offenders make Yakima a dangerous place to live

YAKIMA, Wash. -- "I’m not a bad kid or anything. I just didn’t have no guidance,' said 19-year-old Luis Coronado.

Coronado blames the lack of a father figure, for why he chose to lead a life of crime, which ultimately landed him in Yakima County Jail, facing murder charges.

"I had my mom. I just didn’t have no dad to guide me – to teach me how to be a man, so I had to find out myself," he said.

Yakima County Juvenile Detention Manager Steve Driscoll says this a common reason criminals break the law.

"We have a lot more single mothers that may be working two or three jobs, that are not in the house, so there may be a deficit in the actual nurturing and caring of these youth," said Driscoll.

But, that’s just one of many explanations for why he says kids may be committing crimes.

"We tend to see these kids are acting up to fulfill a void that’s missing in their life. A lot of times, it may be for attention, it may be for monetary gain, it may be because they have not been provided the adequate skills to deal with life’s difficult situations," said Driscoll.

Coronado says he needed to fill that void of not having a dad, by joining one of Yakima's gangs, at an early age.

Because of his gang affiliation, he says he’s doesn’t want to show his face on camera, but is comfortable with revealing his identity.

Coronado currently faces murder charges, for allegedly killing Efren Cervantes Sanchez back in the spring of 2018.

Police say Coronado shot Sanchez to death in the Valley Mall parking lot, after the two got into an argument.

"I’m a good person, just sometimes you get to the point, like they push you to a point," said Coronado.

Coronado didn’t want to talk much about the murder he's accused of, but tells me this wasn’t his first run-in with the law.

With no parents around, he says it all started around the age of 15, when he was initiated into a gang, and found himself in and out of juvenile detention for committing crimes, like theft and robbery.

One of the reasons he says he did this?

"It’s a small place, nothing to do," he said.

Yakima County Prosecutor Joe Brusic says youth who repeatedly break the law and eventually find themselves in the adult system, later down the line, are making Yakima a dangerous place to live.

"I do believe that at times, some of these juveniles and the repeat juvenile offenders that we have, are in fact making Yakima County more susceptible to victimization," said Brusic.

While Coronado wouldn’t reveal which gang he’s a part of, he says it gave him a sense of belonging, and older brothers he could look up to.

He says if given the opportunity to go back in time and fix things, he wouldn’t.

And he’d never point the finger at his gang for the choice he made, when police say he pulled the trigger the night of April 6th.

"I can’t blame the gang because it's nobody else’s fault, but yours. It’s my fault, because I’m the one that chose this life. I’m the one that chose to get involved in this lifestyle, so I can't put the blame on no one," said Coronado.

After being out of juvenile detention for a month, Coronado has been in county jail ever since.

He says he even spent his 19th birthday behind bars.

And while he says he’s accepted the choices he’s made and the consequences, he has a message for his little brother and sister.

Coronado said, "I’d tell them that this ain’t the life for you guys. That you guys can learn from me. I hope they graduate, and get a good job, provide for my mom. That’s all I ask for."


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