Police have confirmed that they're investigating the death of a 10 year old boy in Los Angeles County with a suspicion that it was motivated by homophobia. Last Wednesday, police were called to Anthony Avalos's home after a 911 call from his mother Heather Barron, saying he had suffered 'injuries from a fall'. When the authorities arrived, it soon became obvious that something else was at play when they found severe head injuries and cigarette burns all over the boys body. The boy's parents, Barron and her boyfriend Kareem Leiva had previously been reported numerous times for child abuse incidents from Anthony's concerned school teachers and questions are being raised about how the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and the police handle calls of concern.
Since 2013, DCFS and the police received 16 calls in total from school officials and family members concerning child abuse by the couple, and at least 13 of the calls were about Anthony specifically and not one of his 6 other siblings. Reports had surfaced that the siblings had been denied food and water frequently, were beaten and dangles from staircases, forced to fight each other and eat from the trash as well as being victims of sexual abuse. Anthony’s aunt Maria Barron began calling DCFS back in 2015 when she noticed bruises on the kids, and has spoken to press to talk about how brave the child was to 'come out' in a household where he might have suspected he wouldn't be accepted. Anthony was taken, unresponsive, to the hospital where he eventually died a day later from his injuries following years of abuse.
First Gabriel Fernandez. Now Anthony Avalos. They were abused and killed for being gay. And if we don’t do something, it’s gonna keep happening to more children. Homophobia kills. Rest In Power Angels. #RIPGabrielFernandez #RIPAnthonyAvalos #LGBT pic.twitter.com/hsRWZpHpUJ— mrak :) (@markkaanthony) June 26, 2018
In addition to his treatment from his mother and her partner, a 2013 investigation had concluded that Anthony was sexually abused by a grandparent. Though the couple had been abusive towards the children for years, its understood that the reason they killed him was because he had recently told his family that he 'liked boys' in the weeks leading up to his death, and a DCFS statement said that they are investigating if homophobia is a factor. LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn admitted that authorities had “Failed Anthony. I hope to get answers in the coming days as to what went wrong.” Bobby Cagle, Director of DCFS, however said that it’s “too premature” to say whether or not DCFS failed in this situation: "That’s a very complex question. It’s much more than a black-and-white issue. There are many shades of gray." Heather Barron and Kareem Leiva have still not yet been arrested.
This isn't the first incident like this in Los Angeles, in 2013 an eight year old boy called Gabriel Fernandez was abused by his parents because they thought he was gay, and he died of his injuries.