Sister of Albert Lea shooting victim speaks out; victim and suspect related

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 10:32 PM CDT
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Juan Vasquez
Juan Vasquez(KTTC)

ALBERT LEA, Minn. (KTTC) – Last week, the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office confirmed a man was shot and killed in rural Albert Lea.

The man was 45-year-old Juan Vasquez Jr.

“He was a big teddy bear,” said Mary Vasquez. “In my heart, he’ll always be my baby brother.”

Mary lives in Missouri. She said the family is from Texas, and Juan was her only sibling.

“I can never get him back. You can’t bring him back. He’s gone, and we can’t even bring him home until everything is resolved,” she said.

32-year-old Ben Moreno was arrested for shooting Juan.

“That’s his [Juan’s] son-in-law. That’s what makes it so hard. It’s his daughter’s husband,” Mary said. “Apparently, she was leaving him or escaping from him. He was abusive.”

Mary said Juan was a protector and was probably trying to defend his daughter.

“My brother was a lot of things, but his family was always a priority no matter what, no matter where he was,” she said.

The Freeborn County Sheriff’s office said Vasquez went to a house where Moreno was at. The sheriff says there was a possible fight and believes Moreno fired multiple shots at Vazquez who was in a car with another man. The sheriff said Vazquez got out of the car unharmed and walked towards Moreno and then when Moreno fired the deadly shot.

“Knowing that somebody else took his life is not easiest for any parent, or family to deal with when you don’t have answers. When there are so many stories and there are so many things. In all reality, we just want justice,” Mary said.

Juan is survived by his sister, father, four children and four grandchildren. Mary said Juan’s youngest grandson’s father is Moreno.

Mary said her brother didn’t live a perfect life but he was changing for his grandchildren, and now the family wants to bring him home.

“We have to wait and as we speak, he’s sitting in the coroner’s office. He’s sitting in a fridge where we can’t even lay him to rest,” she said.

She said officials are not releasing her brother’s body until progress is made in the investigation.

The Freeborn County Sheriff said the investigation is ongoing.

The sheriff also confirms Vasquez’s death is the county’s first homicide investigation since 2016.

RELATED STORY: Suspected shooter arrested after fatal Freeborn County shooting

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