A vigil for a 10-year-old Lancaster boy who died after being injured at home under suspicious circumstances grew contentious as family members disputed the circumstances surrounding his death on Friday.
Anthony Avalos was taken to the hospital Wednesday afternoon after deputies found him unresponsive in his family's home in the 1100 block of East Avenue K, and he died the next morning.
Though Avalos was reported to have been injured in a fall, detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are investigating his death as "suspicious." An official cause of death has not yet been determined.
During a vigil held for the boy Friday evening, his relatives broke into shouting matches as they bickered over whether he was mistreated by his mother. One woman could be heard yelling to "Stop blaming people; let's wait for the report."
One aunt, Karla Avalos, said she firmly believes Anthony was mistreated.
"He was actually a very happy boy," she said, referring to the boy's overall character. "He was joyful every time that he would come over to our house. He was just very happy."
Another aunt, Maria Barron, claimed the 10-year-old had "bruises all over his body" and a head injury at the time of his death. She said she filed a report with the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services three years ago over concern for his mother and her boyfriend's treatment of their kids.
"He said plenty of times that 'mommy hit me,'" Barron told KTLA. "He has. 'Mommy put me on a captain's chair. Mommy put rice on the floor and I had to sit on my knees.' She made up punishments for him."
The Sheriff's Department confirmed its deputies and officers with the child services agency both previously responded the property after child abuse was reported there. The visits were first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
One photo of the boy displayed at the memorial had the words "the system failed me too" scribbled over it.
Earlier this week authorities removed seven children — ranging in age from 11 months to 12 years old — who either lived or were associated with Anthony's family from the home where he was found, citing the ongoing investigation.
Hope Shearer, who is a cousin of Anthony's mother, defended her relative's parenting.
"My cousin is a good mother," she told KTLA. "I've never seen any signs of abuse ever in my life. My cousin loves her son."
Correction: The wording in an earlier version of this article misinterpreted a family member's claims regarding the boy's case. The story has been updated.