On Oct. 6, Jose Corona Galvan went to Mexico Bakery in Little Portugal to buy some bread for his mom. He never made it back home.
At about 9:25pm that night on the 1500 block of Alum Rock Avenue, eyewitnesses told his family that a group of people ambushed the 18-year-old and knifed him in the thigh. He died a short time later at the San Jose Regional Hospital, marking the city’s 29th homicide of the year.
Things had been looking up for Galvan, too. He planned to start a job at Smart & Final the next morning. He was getting mental health help and mentorship support from a few local nonprofits, including Fresh Lifelines for Youth, New Hope for Youth and Starlight Community Services. Days after the murder, his first driver’s license arrived in the mail.
“He was doing so well,” his brother Carlos Rocha, 28, says. “He was on the right track.”
Not only did Rocha lose one of his five siblings, he has to figure out how to help his single mom come up with more than $20,000 to bury Galvan. Rocha and his family started a GoFundMe, which as of today raised $2,230. They stood outside Mexico Bakery to collect alms from customers. They also asked for financial help from California’s victim compensation fund.
Exactly a week before the funeral mass set for this Friday, the family received a phone call with bad news from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, which administers the fund for victims in the South Bay as well as San Mateo and Contra Costa counties. The office denied the petition for a $7,500 emergency check.
“It’s devastating,” Rocha says. “They told her that she didn’t qualify for the benefits to help her out because my brother participated in the fight.”
Today is the first day of the viewing at the Martinez Family Funeral Home. Thankfully, community members have stepped up with some financial help. Mexico Bakery owner Jose Melchor chipping in a bit of cash. As did New Hope.
But Margaret Petros, a victim advocate and head of Mothers Against Murder, says she believes the family’s claim is eligible for assistance and should have been paid based on the information provided. “Jose was not a gang member—not that that’s a reason to deny the family this benefit,” she tells San Jose Inside. “He didn’t start a fight and he didn’t want this. Somebody stabbed him and he ran for his life.”
Victims have a right under the state constitution to the compensation, which is funded not through tax revenue but by fines and restitution orders. She calls the DA’s denial of the Galvans’ petition “beyond cruel” and plans to appeal the decision for the family.
“These claims should not be this difficult for a mother to have to obtain,” she says. “No family should have to do a car wash and beg for money in these situations. They should not have to go through this. This is an emergency, and in an emergency, the benefit of the doubt must be given to the victim.”
The DA should have sent the family a more specific reason for the denial, Petros contends. And they should have sent her a copy as well, she says, since she’s a legally authorized advocate for the family.
In a message to the DA on Tuesday, she wrote: “You agreed to email me the fact that you can’t release the in-lieu-of crime report that has the reason why this claim was denied for an emergency check of $7,500 because it jeopardizes investigation, but I’ve not received such email from you. Therefore, I want to document this. I disagree with your inability to share the exact reason why this claim was denied and will go up chain of commands to stop this from happening in the future.”
Petros says she has yet to receive the information she asked for.
“If they have good reasons, they should have given it,” she insists. “I believe they were not sure and they’re covering that up.”
Kasey Halcon, head of the DA’s Victim Services Unit, says her office paid out $2.6 million in state money last year to families of violent crime victims who requested help. But there are statutory limits in place.
“In some relatively rare cases, state law prohibits us from facilitating such payments,” she explains. “One common prohibition is against funds going to victims who instigate the violent crime, a dynamic we find in gang-related confrontations.”
The local DA processed 4,837 applications in the tri-county area for the funds from the middle of 2018 to the same time this year. It rejected 402.
Though she couldn’t offer any monetary support, Halcon extends her condolences.
“No matter what the scenario, every crime victim and their loved ones deserve our respect, empathy and best efforts,” she says. “The family of Mr. Galvan has all three.”
Empathy and respect won’t foot the bills, Petros replied when told about Halcon’s response. “If the DA put those three words they used in action, we’d be grateful,” she says. “You are not above the law and you will be held accountable.”
For the time being, Petros wants to amplify the family’s call for material support. She says donations to Mothers Against Murder can be made online through PayPal on mothersagainstmurder.org or to Wells Fargo account No. 2630028260.
Rocha says his brother was a generous soul, who always tried to help their mom pay for rent and groceries and made sure their youngest sibling—who’s 12 years old—had new clothes and shoes to wear to school. “There’s so much I’m going to miss about him,” he says of Galvan. “And now we’ll have to work twice as hard to keep everyone on top of things. We’re going to need a lot of support.”
In addition to being denied financial help by the DA, Rocha says his family has been left in the dark by the police. All he knows, he says, is that nobody interviewed him or his mom and no one told them whether they even have a person of interest.
San Jose police have also not publicly disclosed whether the case is gang-related. In an email to San Jose Inside, SJPD spokeswoman Officer Gina Tepoorten declined to share any more details about what remains open investigation. “Detectives are following up on leads,” she offered. “An arrest has not been made.”
However, she said police interviewed “a number of people” at the scene and urge anyone with information on the case to contact detectives T.J Lewis or James Cerniglia in the Homicide Unit at 408.277.5283.