Family remembers kind, loving boy killed in south Salem shooting

The high school sophomore dreamed of being a professional boxer.

Instead, he was gunned down on a neighborhood street in south Salem.

Hector de Jesus Gonzalez Mendoza, 16, was killed in the shooting on June 23.

Authorities have provided no details about the events leading up to the boy’s death. An 18-year-old man has been charged with murdering him.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office declined to name the teen who was killed, saying it wanted to leave that decision to his family. But Gonzalez Mendoza’s relatives identified him and provided written details to Salem Reporter about the boy’s life.

Gonzalez Mendoza was born on Sept. 28, 2007, in Silverton.

“When Hector was younger he loved playing with his siblings and cousins. He was obsessed with Mario and loved playing all the games,” according to his mother, who answered written questions through his cousin.

Gonzalez Mendoza spent most of grade school at Hallman Elementary School in northeast Salem. He attended Waldo, Houck and Crossler Middle Schools before moving to Mexico in 2022 to visit his father.

He returned to Salem in February 2023, starting his freshman year at Sprague High School and then transferring to McKay High School until this past January. 

The teen enjoyed hanging out with friends and playing basketball. He had a strong interest in music, especially rap, according to his mother.

He told relatives that he wanted to pursue a professional boxing career.

Early morning gunfire

Shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday, June 23, John DeNoma and his wife were driving home when they saw a boy lying by the side of South Skyline Road, a residential area on the outskirts of south Salem.

They turned around and got out to help. His wife, a trained nurse, tried to perform CPR on Gonzalez Mendoza. 

“I was attempting to keep everyone calm and watching for anyone who might try to come back,” DeNoma told Salem Reporter. “It happens that the person who shot him did come back and was tackled by one of the other people at the scene.”

Gonzalez Mendoza was pronounced dead at the scene, the sheriff’s office said in a statement later that day. 

Relatives said that he was with friends at the time that he was shot.

Deputies arrested David Ayon-Urbano, who they suspected had killed the boy. 

The sheriff’s office at the time did not address written questions, including what led up to the shooting and how, if at all, the suspect and victim knew each other.

A Marion County grand jury on July 1 indicted Ayon-Urbano of Salem on charges of second-degree murder and unlawful use of a weapon.

Court records did not show that he had entered a plea as of Tuesday.

Ayon-Urbano was originally booked into Marion County Jail, but he was later moved to Linn County Jail in Albany “due to safety and security,” according to detective Jeremy Schwab, spokesman for the sheriff’s office. Schwab provided no details about those concerns.

Court records showed no earlier criminal charges filed against Ayon-Urbano. He also had no contact with the juvenile justice system as a minor, according to Troy Gregg, Marion County juvenile director.

He attended Roberts High School this past year as a senior but did not graduate or earn a diploma, according to school district records.

Marion County prosecutors said in a court filing that the killing was “motivated by bias” and that Ayon-Urbano showed a lack of remorse. They intend to rely on those details to argue for a sentence that’s longer than normal if Ayon-Urbano is convicted.

Gonzalez Mendoza’s mother said that they had received little information about his death, “only that he was shot more than once.”

“We are still all processing the reality of what happened,” she said.

A Spotfund page raising money for Gonzalez Mendoza’s funeral expenses had raised over $765 as of Tuesday. 

“He was a kind person. Loved his family and friends,” his mother said.

A city report last fall found that shootings in Salem had doubled in recent years. 

Teenagers were involved in about 10% of Salem shootings between 2018 and 2021 as victims and assailants. That number has since jumped to over 25%, according to the report.


Salem teen accused of fatally shooting boy, 16, in south Salem

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.