LAS VEGAS >> He was just a kid from the neighborhood who never had much. Mature for his age, the eldest of 11 children, Marcos Arenas always knew his blue-collar father was just scraping by.
So the iPad was precious, a gift for his 15th birthday and the Christmas before that and all the other birthdays when he never got anything. For the natural athlete who sang in the school choir and wanted to be a Marine and maybe a pro boxer, it was the first really nice thing he ever owned.
His father bought it at a pawn shop. He put the device in his son’s hands and said, “Do you like it?”
He did. Marcos never went anywhere without it – school, hanging out with friends, even runs down to the corner store.
So last Friday afternoon, while on an errand, Marcos defended what was his. As he walked along Charleston Boulevard in a low-income area of Las Vegas, two men pulled up alongside him in a white Ford Explorer and tried to snatch his prized iPad, authorities say.
But Marcos wouldn’t let go. He fought. As the truck sped off, the high school freshman was pulled beneath the wheels. As his attackers fled with the iPad, he lay alongside a dirty concrete curb.
Today, Ivan Arenas buried the son he considered his best friend. He can’t fathom how two grown men could be so callous, to covet a few-hundred-dollar device Marcos had owned for less than two months.
But Arenas is proud of his son. “He battled for what was his,” he said. “I know Marcos would have fought anyone for that iPad.”
Two men have been arrested in the attack. Jacob Dismont, 18, and Michael Samuel Solid, 21, were charged with robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon.
Investigators say the pair spotted Marcos with the iPad and followed him. After the death, police say, they changed the tires and placed fake license plates on the truck.
At a bail hearing this week, prosecutor Robert Daskas said a convenience store video caught the suspects tailing Marcos before the robbery. He called them “lions on the Serengeti, waiting to pounce, to ambush the smallest member of a pack. They had an orchestrated, preconceived plan to rob this 15-year-old.”
The crime is part of a nationwide trend known as “Apple picking,” street slang for the theft of such Apple products as iPhones, iPods and iPads – lightweight devices that are easy to sell.
Of 7,000 iPads distributed to five low-income schools by the Clark County School District, scores have been stolen, officials say. “These cowards will snatch the products out people’s hands while they’re using them,” said Bill Cassell, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
The community has come to Ivan Arenas’ aid. Neighbors held a car wash and sponsored other events to help pay funeral expenses.
On Tuesday night at Garside Junior High School, where Marcos once sang in the school choir, students took up a collection at the annual spring concert. Arenas was there, a black hat practically covering his eyes.
A dozen students ran up to hug him, including a wisp of a boy who whispered into the father’s ear. “My parents want to know when they’re going to bury Marcos.”
“Friday, hijo,” Arenas said softly.
He called each embrace a compliment to his son: “I’m just Marcos’ dad. I’m noticed because of him.”
Arenas, 35, a floor installer, said he and Marcos had lived alone. In January, his next oldest son, Omar, 14, left to live with his mother in Oregon. The father was fighting with his current wife, who recently left him, taking the three youngest children with her.
Arenas was depressed, but Marcos looked after his dad, making sure he ate. “We leaned on each other,” he said. “I needed his company more than he did mine. I wanted nothing more than to have his company.”
The father and son bonded through sports. Marcos played linebacker and wide receiver in his freshman year. He and his dad played basketball, wrestled and lifted weights together. Arenas never went easy on his boy. He showed him defeat so he’d savor victory even more.
Marcos was competitive – 5-foot-8 and 135 pounds of pure muscle, Arenas said. “Girls loved him,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many have told me ’I’m Marcos’ No. 1 girlfriend.’”
Dad and son had a deal: As long as Marcos maintained a C average in school, he could go his own way, hang with his friends who were always around the apartment. But he struggled. Arenas says he was dyslexic.
Marcos never asked for much, but in March his father decided to buy him a computer for his 15th birthday. At a pawn shop, he found an HP laptop on a close-out sale for $170. “He fell in love with it,” he said.
But the computer was damaged. Arenas took it back for a refund. At the store, he saw an iPad for sale. He called Marcos immediately.
“I said, ’Baby, come to the pawn shop,’” Arenas said. “He was my baby. He’d say, ’I’m not a baby,’ and I’d say, ’I don’t care how big you get; I’ll get bigger. You’re always going to be my first baby.’”
The iPad cost $100 more than the laptop. So they made another deal: Marcos would give up a cell phone his father promised as a second gift in exchange for the iPad. “He jumped on it,” said Arenas, who worked two weeks of overtime to make up the price difference.
On the day of his death, Marcos told his father he didn’t want to go to school. Arenas made them eggs and toast for breakfast and the two packed up. They’d received an eviction notice on the apartment.
Later, Marcos went for Mexican food. His father gave him $20. “A half-hour later, I get hit with the news – my son is lying wounded in the street,” he said.
Arenas hasn’t visited the spot where his son was attacked. A memorial of flowers and votive candles sits there now. He’s coping with his anger, considering it a victory that he doesn’t hate the two men charged with killing his boy.
He understands why Marcos so fiercely protected the gift from his father.
“For us, that thing was just an iPad,” he said. “But for Marcos, it was something his daddy worked hard to get him. He knew what I was going through. We didn’t have a lot. If he had something nice, he’d treasure it.”