Alex Lemus.jpg

Alex Lemus

The young man who was gunned down outside his apartment complex in an apparent armed robbery Monday morning had immigrated to the U.S. from Honduras five years earlier, fleeing violence in his home country and searching for a better life. 

Alex Lemus, 23, had found that better life in Baton Rouge — where he got a job, met his future wife and later became a father.

His death has raised questions about whether members of the city's Hispanic community are being targeted as crime victims because of assumptions surrounding their reluctance to call police. 

Lemus was leaving for work Monday morning when an unidentified gunman approached him and then opened fire before fleeing. Police responded to reports of the shooting around 6:50 a.m. in the 1600 block of East Walker Court, an enclave of apartment buildings off North Sherwood Forest Drive that's filled with Hispanic residents. 

Baton Rouge police said they're aware of other criminal incidents in the neighborhood that are also being investigated. Police spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola said it's especially important for residents of that area to report suspected crimes when they occur. 

Lemus' wife, Linda Monge, said she had gotten up early Monday to pack her husband's lunch. He worked as a painter and usually left home between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. 

This morning followed their usual routine — until she heard a single gunshot and heard her husband scream. She rushed to the window and saw the shooter flee in a vehicle. 

Monge said her husband moved to the U.S. five years ago and settled in Baton Rouge after finding a job here. He and his sister had left Honduras amid concerns for their safety as gang violence and political unrest have plagued the country in recent years. 

"He was fleeing because of violence," Monge said in Spanish. "Then he came here and became a victim of crime." 

Monge said she also left Honduras for similar reasons. Her father was a Honduran politician whose career had placed his family in danger. He was killed there two years ago.

She met Lemus when he became a regular customer at the Florida Boulevard restaurant where she worked. They dated for several months before getting married and had just celebrated their first wedding anniversary in January. Photos from the ceremony line the walls of their apartment.

Monge described her husband as someone who valued his family above all else: a hard worker who approached life's ups and downs with quiet strength and unwavering honesty.

She said she has received an outpouring of support from his friends and colleagues. Lemus was active in their church, El Milagro Church of God, and played on a local soccer team. He was also the breadwinner of their family. 

His body is being shipped to Honduras for burial and the family is accepting donations to help cover funeral costs.

Now Monge is left to raise their daughter, who just turned 2 last week, as a single mom. She's taking English classes and dreams of opening her own restaurant someday. And she's hoping to move out of her current apartment but plans to remain in Baton Rouge, largely because of the church community she's found here. 

Ileana Medina, wife of the church's pastor, said she knows a lot of people who live in the apartments off North Sherwood Forest Boulevard and has long been concerned about crime in the area.

"I can say that 90 to 95 percent of the people who live in this (complex) are Hispanic. Everybody knows each other and they're worried when they see outsiders coming in," she said. "Hispanics are being targeted by criminals and they're scared to call the police because they're afraid of what the police are gonna do."

A similar case unfolded last year in the Gardere area when two Hispanic men became victims of an armed robbery and shooting, which left one dead. Neighbors at the scene described their own suspicions that robbers would target the neighborhood because some residents are undocumented immigrants and might be reluctant to report crime. A 16-year-old has been arrested and indicted in that case. 

Follow Lea Skene on Twitter, @lea_skene.