I was six years old when this crime happened, but what happened that night was unforgettable. Three men jumped out of the bushes as we started the steps to our apartment. They had a gun and yelled at my dad to open the door. Once inside, they kept asking each of us, “Where is the money?” I had no clue and told them that it was in my mom’s purse. One guy shoved my dad, and he stumbled onto the couch. We sat there as they flipped over dressers and tore the bills off a plant that had dollars folded as leaves. They tied our hands with duct tape and separated us: my dad in the bedroom, my mom in our room, and my brother and I in the bathroom. Sometimes they would peek into the bathroom and ask about the money again. One of the guys pretended his hand was a gun and motioned as if he were pulling a trigger, whispering “Psssheww.”
Then they took us to my dad’s room, and I saw him get kicked in the head so hard that he fell sideways on the mattress. He was kicked twice. For some reason, I kept hoping that they wouldn’t find my sticker book. It seemed like hours went by when my dad somehow freed his hands and took the tape off my brother and me. He opened a window and threw a book out. He kept doing that until a man noticed and asked us what was going on. My dad can hardly speak English, so my brother asked the stranger to help. I don’t know if it was this man or my mom who got the cops, but things seemed just as chaotic by the time I saw my mom whose shirt was torn down to the shoulders and was in tears. They had pretended to take lewd photographs of her, hoping to scare her into telling them where we kept our valuables. I recall that a police officer said, “I don’t know why she’s crying.” I thought it was strange that he didn’t know.
When I saw an article and a website about Eddy, whose case is now being appealed on a technicality, I felt that his attack was conveniently cloaked by words like “mistake” and “robbery”. He seemed to be portrayed as a confused child who was led astray, but I know that everyone has choices, and his were clearly set on a criminal path whether or not friends were involved. He knew that there were consequences to actions, or else he would not have made such a meticulous plan to rob my family. This crime was planned from start to finish. His accomplice saved money to purchase a gun. In a borrowed vehicle, they tailed my family from the shop to our home.
Two days before his parole hearing, he wed an American citizen in hopes of deflecting deportation. He is a coward hiding behind euphemisms and legal maneuvers, doing everything in his power to stay in a country whose laws he has violated. I feel as if everything that my family went through is being swept under a rug. I want people to know that there are four victims here who were affected beyond the night of the robbery. What hurt most was that we couldn’t feel safe in our own home. They ambushed us when we suspected it least. 20 years later, Eddy’s case has become a sensation and has garnered sympathy from community leaders and activists who see him as a model prisoner. It saddens me to see so many people rallying for him. It is a stark contrast to the aftermath of the robbery for my family.
Instead of connecting with others, my family set up walls. My dad installed iron poles over each window. The doors were reinforced by blocks of wood and a second door. Even our kitchen balcony has a metal roof and gate on it now. The new alarm system blared the minute a door was opened, and we had a motion detector in the hallway. Despite these measures, my brother turned into someone I didn’t recognize — someone so scared that he couldn’t even use the restroom by himself. Frustrated, my dad chastised him. He forbade anyone to escort him. I remember singing in the hallway to comfort my brother when he had to use the toilet. My mom became paranoid and would become frantic even if I came home 5 minutes later than expected. A couple of months after the robbery, I got lost at a shopping center.
I backtracked and found my family within a few minutes, but my mom was inconsolable. She was crying and turned away when I approached. My relatives told me to apologize for causing her to be upset, but no one seemed to know that getting lost was a scary experience for me too. Needless to say, that outing was cut short. There was a time when she heard footsteps in the middle of the night. She crawled to a phone and dialed 911. Even though nothing was amiss on our floor, she told the cops that “bad guys” were upstairs. With their guns drawn, the cops charged up the steps only to find our confused neighbors in their pajamas. Later she confided to me that she was horribly embarrassed. Incidents such as these made me anxious, and it has affected our relationship. As a teen, I discovered a yellow packet under some clothes in her drawer. Inside was a private investigator’s card and a few photographs of me. Most of my friends had inquisitive parents, but I couldn’t believe that mine would pay a private investigator to follow me.
Eddy’s actions have disrupted my life in countless ways. No matter how helpful he has been while incarcerated, I believe that your true colors show when you are not under close scrutiny. As before, he knows exactly what he wants and calculates how to get it. To me, any achievements he claims were done to sway the court to rule in his favor. My family is no different from his: an immigrant family in northern California. He is heartless to treat us the way he did and expect to get away with it. I believe that he had worse intentions that night in 1986. It was our saving grace that we didn’t have a safe. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to us if they found all the money they expected. Would they have left us bound, or something more sinister? Most people who commit crimes conceal their faces.
The fact that these men didn’t use masks tells me how brazen these criminals were. How would they prevent us from identifying them unless they intended to silence us as well? Until now, my family has not spoken about what happened, and I still don’t feel that I can speak in court especially without my parents and brother present. Part of me is afraid that I will feel like the one who has done something wrong when I see the people vying for Eddy’s release. My firm wish is that Ted be deported because he was given so many chances, from his first misdemeanor to the most recent burglary, and botched them all, tainting the lives of all involved. I know so many people who would die to live in the United States. To let someone like Eddy stay in light of the eager thousands who yearn for an honest living would break my heart. For my family’s sake who still resides at the same address, please let him make a life anywhere but here.