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Vegas Lost: Teen working on turning his life around tragically murdered

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“I’ve been getting in trouble my whole life, but s**t started getting serious when I was 11 or 12.”

That was what Aaron Rodriguez told us when we met him at Spring Mountain Youth Camp. He was a 17-year-old in the Camp’s boxing program, with an unsure future.

“Are there people out there who can help you?", we asked. His answer was short and grim. “Not really. Got to be strong-minded.”

We left him then with a month on his sentence. He left an impression. We wondered what happened to him after he was released and got our answer 6 months later at a place called City Athletic Boxing Club.

If fighting is what landed him in handcuffs, fighting is what was going to save him.

“A lot of big fighters come through here. Are you going to be one of them?", we asked. “That’s guaranteed.”

Aaron told us he had hurdles in the months he was out. A friend told us one of those hurdles was drug use. He could escape temptation when he put the gloves on but he couldn’t escape his neighborhood.

He lived in a section of North Las Vegas with the highest number of juveniles referred to the justice system. Minutes before he was killed while walking home, our crew was at the scene of another shooting less than two miles away.

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When we talked to him early in October, Rodriguez told us he wanted to change. “I put my mom through a lot of stuff. I want to make it up to her. A big part of this is for her", he told us. “Sooner or later I’m going to start coaching classes. Right now I’m just focusing on me. I want to get probation out of the way and finish school. I can’t be like I used to be.”

Aaron had hope for his future. Now, hope is replaced with candles and messages. On the corner of Pecos and Carey, there is a memorial to just how hard it is to turn your life around. It’s a journey Aaron was on, now his message to those taking their first steps.

“It’s easy to fall off, it’s easy to commit crimes, easy to be in jail. All you have to do is focus on yourself. It takes a true gangster to be out here handling your priorities, making sure you’re straight. Making sure you’re doing the right thing.”

Police are still searching for Aaron’s killer.

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