Eladio Arrendando-Estrada walked his grandchildren to school every morning when Jorge would go to work.

A Phoenix street vendor in the West Valley said he and others have become prime targets for robbery and assault because of their fear of contacting authorities.

The perpetrators prey on their vulnerability because the attackers know there may not be consequences, he said.

Just last week, two young men approached Jose Sergio Tepetzi on Osborn Road and 37th Avenue and fired five gunshots in his direction, he said.

Tepetzi was able to shield himself with his cart for protection. The bullet strikes remain on the cart and are a reminder that he could have lost his life that day for the $30 that he had in his pocket.

“I threw myself behind my cart and stayed there for a while. I couldn’t move until someone came up to me moments later to see if I was OK,” Tepetzi said. “We want support from (authorities). We want them to tell us what we can do.”

Their fear, Teperzi said, has now gone to a new level due to the recent death of Eladio Arrendando-Estrada, another Phoenix area street vendor who sold snacks in his neighborhood from a cart he would push, who was gunned down April 25. He was shot about 8:25 p.m. during what police say may have been an attempted armed robbery in a parking lot in the 16800 block of North 26th Street.

Arrendando-Estrada was shot as he was trying to flee from two men who confronted him, police said. No arrests have been made. 

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Who are the attackers?

Tepetzi said his assailants have been mostly teenage Hispanic or African-American males. Some pretend they are going to buy something from him and as he’s reaching for his merchandise, they reach for their gun. Others don’t bother with the act and pull their weapons out on sight, he said.

Armed robberies are not the only obstacles street vendors face. Bernardino Tzompaxtle-Rodriguez, a street vendor in the same area, said he is often bullied by teens in the neighborhood.

“They come and throw my goods on the ground, laugh and leave,” Tzompaxtle-Rodriguez said.

 Tzompaxtle-Rodriguez and Tepetzi don’t contact authorities for a number of reasons, one of them that they fear their immigration status will come into question.

Another is that city officials will throw away their products for lacking a street-vending license. The men admit that they are violating a law by not having one, but they desperately want some sort of support or protection.

“We don’t defend ourselves because we genuinely don’t want any trouble. We don’t want to fight; we just want to work,” Tepetzi said.

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Questions of immigration status 

Antonio Velasquez, director and founder of Organización Maya Chapin de Guatemala en Arizona, an organization that mostly serves the Guatemalan community, said that the street vendors who share their stories with him go through this “almost daily.”

“They don’t report it. They’re afraid,” Velasquez said.

Velasquez said that some street vendors do contact authorities, but by the time police arrive, the robbers are long gone and it is too late.

Sgt. Mercedes Fortune, a Phoenix police department spokeswoman, said that officers do not ask questions about immigration status when a victim or witness is reporting a crime.

“We are committed to protecting and serving every member of our diverse community and ensuring that crime victims and witnesses feel comfortable and confident when reporting crimes to our officers,” Fortune said.

The immigration status of victims and witnesses is not asked. Officers are there to help those in need.”


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