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Originally published November 19, 2013 at 8:34 PM | Page modified November 20, 2013 at 7:21 AM

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A 4-year-old murder captured on Google Maps haunts a family

A San Francisco Bay Area man asked Google Maps to remove an aerial image that shows the body of his 14-year-old son, who was shot and killed in 2009.

Contra Costa Times

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RICHMOND, Calif. — For Jose Barrera, the horrifying memory of his 14-year-old son’s unsolved murder is a Google search away.

The teenager, Kevin Barrera, was shot to death four years ago, but the grim crime scene remains on Google Maps’ satellite image of Richmond, a haunting reminder of the August 2009 killing.

While the Internet giant on Monday said it will take the unusual step of removing the image as quickly as possible, the elder Barrera said it has already traumatized his family. His stepdaughter, a 26-year-old student at the University of California, Berkeley, has had trouble sleeping since the family discovered the image on Friday, he said.

“All the memories are coming back to four years ago,” Jose Barrera said inside his home Monday. “I’m in shock.”

Kevin was shot and killed the night of Aug. 14, 2009, on a footpath crossing the railroad tracks that separate North Richmond from San Pablo.

His body was discovered by a passer-by the next morning. The crime was never solved.

Google Maps’ satellite image shows Kevin’s body, a police patrol car and what appear to be police officers examining the scene near the tracks running parallel with Rumrill Boulevard.

A local TV news station notified the elder Barrera of the image on Friday, prompting him to publicly call for Mountain View, Calif.-based Google to remove it from its site.

Richmond’s RYSE Center also asked for its removal. In the months before his death, Kevin frequented the youth center, which offers teens a safe space to congregate after school.

“It was a tragedy when it happened,” said RYSE co-director Kimberly Aceves. “It knocked the wind out of the RYSE community. The fact the dad can access something that brings him back to that point in time is unacceptable.”

Google responded directly to Barrera and news outlets on Monday, saying the company is “looking at different technical solutions” to replace the image. It could take Google eight days to do so, officials said.

“Our hearts go out to the family of this young boy,” Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps, said in a statement. “Google has never accelerated the replacement of updated satellite imagery from our maps before, but given the circumstances we wanted to make an exception in this case.”

The apology wasn’t enough for Barrera, who said he’s disappointed in Google and hopes the company will exercise more caution in the future.

But, he said, perhaps the new publicity will put pressure on Richmond police to solve his son’s murder. However, officials said Monday they had no new leads in the case.

“I’m going to take this time to tell police, ‘Don’t forget my son. Close the case,’ ” he said.

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