The man shot and killed outside his west Medford home Wednesday evening had affiliated himself with the Sureños gang, but a family friend who condemns gang violence said Christian Miguel Barajas was no troublemaker. In fact, he rarely left his house, she said.
Barajas, 23, had just started walking to a nearby market for cigarettes when he was gunned down at 5:39 p.m. in an apparent drive-by shooting, according to Trina Joslin, who described herself as a close friend of Barajas and Barajas' mother. He didn't even have time to shut the door of the house he shared for more than a decade with his mother and grandmother.
"Christian never really went anywhere," Joslin said. "All I know is he was shot for no good reason at all."
Medford police have not yet confirmed whether Barajas' death was gang-related, but his Facebook page shows numerous gang-related public posts. His death follows a confirmed gang-related, drive-by shooting Monday night on Dakota Avenue, also in west Medford, for which 20-year-old Santiago Flores-Loveland faces attempted murder charges. No one was hurt in that incident.
Police believe Barajas was shot from a minivan dark in color in the 300 block of Chestnut Street, and that the vehicle sped toward Main Street.
Neighbors reported hearing four shots fired from the vehicle and said they saw police remove a firearm from Barajas' body. Joslin said she believes the firearm was a sign that Barajas was scared of something. She described Barajas as someone who'd go out of his way to avoid a fight.
Joslin said Barajas' association with gangs concerned her, but his reluctance to leave the house overshadowed it. She and his family chalked it up to depression, though she believes it could have been fear. Either way, Joslin said she and the family are "beyond surprised."
Barajas' Facebook profile photo since Oct. 9 is captioned, ".:X1SUR3X:.," which mixes common Sureños markings such as "Sur" and "XIII." This past month he shared multiple photos from a page called "I Don't Mess With Snitches" and quotes from prominent '90s gangsta rappers Tupac Shakur and Ice Cube. Joslin admitted the posts don't cast Barajas in the best light, but they don't reflect his true self, she said.
"That was all facade," Joslin said. "Facebook's fake."
Barajas was a man who didn't have a job, wasn't going to school and was separated from his son Xxaviier, 4, and daughter Mardeallanna, 3. Wearing blue and flashing signs gave him purpose.
"He was looking for acceptance," Joslin said. ""He was looking for friends, he wanted to be a part of the group."
There's immense pressure to choose a Sureños or Norteños affiliation in Barajas' neighborhood, said Joslin, who said her sister lives nearby. When in the neighborhood, Joslin said she'd carefully choose gang-neutral colors.
"You walk out on the street and people say, 'What do you claim?'" Joslin said. "They claimed a life."
To demonstrate that Barajas was no hardened criminal, Joslin pulled up a text conversation she had with Barajas after concern for him created friction at a party. The not-quite confrontation ended amiably and respectfully, with Barajas telling her he was "hella sorry," she said.
"He communicates, he apologizes when he's wrong," Joslin said. "He's a good kid, he was a good kid."
Joslin said she and Barajas drifted apart in his last two months. Joslin said he started to act differently with her after he started seeing a girl, so Joslin gave him space. More recently, Joslin moved to the countryside to escape growing violence in Medford.
Jackson County Circuit Court shows no criminal history for Barajas. He never went by any other names, Joslin said, and she knew of no trouble with the law in the two years she was close to him.
His sudden death devastated his family, and it's also created a sudden financial hardship. Extended family have put up a GoFundMe crowdfunding page hoping to help cover funeral costs.
"We work paycheck to paycheck," Joslin said. "It's hard to ask anybody for anything."
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.