Melinda Llanos was holding her brother's head as he died. When deputies tried to pull her off his body, she fought them, screaming and cursing. They nearly handcuffed her.
Juan "Coco" Llanos, 31, had been standing outside with his older brother and cousin on Friday, Feb. 8, when gunfire erupted and he was mortally wounded. Melinda, 36, and two other sisters had rushed to Juan's side just in time to see him draw a few deep breaths. Melinda had to be escorted away by deputies. Afterward, the brother only remembered the gunfire and the round brake lights of the dark car as it sped northbound on San Pedro Street. Juan was taken by paramedics to UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. When Melinda and other family members arrived at the hospital, they were directed to the chapel, where they were told Juan had died. The bullet punctured his heart and lung.
Melinda and Juan's other siblings recalled the episode in the front yard of the family's home last week, just two weeks after Juan's death. The small front yard was surrounded by a black gate. At the edge of the driveway was a memorial shrine, one of four located throughout the house. A second shrine was on the porch. It was a USC sign made out of flowers by his twin brother Robert. Juan was a USC football fan and Robert was a UCLA fan. "They use to go at it," said younger sister Yesenia Llanos, 27.
They said Juan was one of 10 siblings. He had always been the opposite of his fraternal twin brother, they said. Robert was born with hair and Juan was born bald. As a result, his father called him Coco -- "Coconut" The nickname stuck. Many of Juan's friends never learned his real name. Growing up, Robert was the shy one and Juan was the wild one, his family said. Juan loved to moon people, they said. An older sister, Irene Gallardo, 42, recalled the time their mother pulled into the driveway and Juan, anticipating her arrival, pressed his buttocks against the window of the house.
Juan worked at the Appliance Recycling Center of America Inc. in Compton for about a year. He handled hazardous material from refrigerators. He had two daughters: 5-year-old Natalie by a previous girlfriend and 9-month-old Melody by Wendy Carillo, 19, who is three months pregnant. Juan had been happy at the news of her pregnancy, Carillo said. His sisters said he wanted a boy. Carillo plans to name the baby after him.
"Nobody deserves to die like that, nobody," said Irene Gallardo, the older sister. "All of our kids were here.... I just wonder, how do you sleep at night knowing that you've taken a person's life like that?"
From top to bottom: Yesenia holds a picture of her brother. Melinda's tattoo reads: R.I.P My Brother. Yesenia's tattoo. The family dining room table is now a memorial shrine.