FARMINGTON – Hundreds of people gathered Friday to celebrate the life of a 17-year-old boy killed in a shooting rampage earlier this month in Aztec.
Family, friends and dozens of fellow classmates showed up to Piñon Hills Community Church in Farmington to remember Francisco “Paco” Fernandez.
He and Casey Jordan Marquez, also 17, were killed Dec. 7 when a gunman disguised as a student opened fire inside Aztec High School shortly after first period began. Authorities say 21-year-old William Atchison had planned the attack but that the two victims were not specifically targeted.
Investigators said it’s likely more lives could have been lost if Fernandez had not walked into the bathroom where the gunman was hunkered down. The gunman shot Fernandez, then walked out into the hallway and encountered Marquez. He immediately killed her.
With some calling him a hero, Fernandez’s family remembered him as a teenager who loved sports, video games and hanging out with relatives and friends.
A path leading up to the church was lined with 50 motorcycles. After the private service, a procession of lowriders and classic cars transported the family to the cemetery. Fernandez was a fan of specialty cars and lowriders, his family said.
About 100 people also lined the streets to glimpse the caravan and hold signs praising Fernandez. Many were dressed in orange and black, the colors of Aztec High School.
Sharon Schupla of Farmington said she got up early and made sure to come out with her family. She has a son who attended Aztec High.
“We’ve always been very close to everybody in the area,” Schupla told the Albuquerque Journal. “We’re all going to have to stick together.”
A memorial service for the second victim, Marquez, is scheduled for Sunday.
School officials plan to transform a space damaged by the shooting into an open-learning commons area and dedicate it to the victims.
Hundreds of people were gathering Sunday in northwestern New Mexico for a memorial service and bonfire to remember a 17-year-old student killed in a school shooting rampage this month in the small city of Aztec.
People were asked to write messages to put on the wood for the bonfire at Marquez’s service.
The death of the two teens has hit the tight-knit community of Aztec hard, according to some residents.
“Aztec is not your ordinary town. Everybody knows everybody,” said Susan Aguirre, who owns Lil Aztec Flower Shop, told Albuquerque TV station KOB. “We know our police officers, our commissioners. It’s not a city. It’s not a town of strangers, so it’s very special.”
“(It’s) the story of love and support that’s going to continue,” added Aztec High cheer coach Debbie Johnson. “These kids are our children. We love them, and we protect them and we take care of them.”
A GoFundMe account and bank accounts have been established for the families of the victims. An account ending in 44780 has been set up for the Marquez family at Four Corners Community Bank. An account ending in 3913 has been set up for the Fernandez family at Wells Fargo. The GoFundMe accounts are Love for Casey and Victim of AHS Shooting Paco-F.
Students are scheduled to return to school Monday. They’ll start off the day with a special assembly before heading to class.