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Friends want Escondido crash victims remembered as caring men, not homeless victims

Friends called Sotelo Torres “Gallo” because he was strong and brave, but he also had a big heart.

ESCONDIDO, Calif. — The memorial for Sofio Sotelo Torres and Mateo Salvador continues to grow in Escondido with flowers and candles. Friends want to make sure they're not remembered as two homeless men, but instead, as two people who cared.

Friends called Sotelo Torres “Gallo” because he was strong and brave, but he also had a big heart. “He was that one guy that would give his sweater, his whatever - blanket to his friends... to people in need,” said Octavio “Koala” Yanez. “He was an awesome man.”

Yanez knew Torres for more than a decade and says he had family in the area that he could have stayed with, but he didn't want to abandon his less fortunate friends.

“He chose to be here that night,” Yanez said. “He had a house, a bed, people he could have gone to, but he chose to be here, chose to be with people that didn't have anybody.”

The crash happened Friday night. Sotelo Torres and Salvador were sleeping behind a bush near Mission and Ash. Police say a 13-year-old driving an SUV was trying to escape from officers when she lost control, jumped the curb, and slammed into the two men. Both died from their injuries.

“It broke my heart. It made me cry,” said Yanez, who is furious that the 13-year-old driver and her underage passenger were immediately released to their parents and cannot be charged as adults.

“They took two lives of two innocent men - whether or not they were homeless - they deserve justice," continued Yanez.

Torres owned a landscaping business in the North County, but a few years ago, it ran into financial trouble and he had to shut it down. He still worked day jobs in landscaping, making enough money to buy food for himself and his friends. Torres' son, who lives in Texas, provided a picture of his father to News 8. He was too distraught for an interview, but is glad his father's story is being told.

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