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At vigil honoring teen fatally shot at Fort Worth Whataburger, mother forgives gunmen

More than 100 people gathered Monday night at University United Methodist Church in Fort Worth to honor Zechariah Treviño.

Less than a week has passed since Erica Treviño lost her 17-year-old son to gunfire, but she has already decided what she’d say if given the chance to face the people who pulled the trigger: You are forgiven.

The declaration came as more than 100 people gathered Monday night for a candlelit vigil outside University United Methodist Church in Fort Worth — directly across the street from the Whataburger parking lot where last Friday, Erica says Zechariah Treviño jumped in front of his cousin, ultimately saving her life.

In the days since the slaying, three people have been arrested, including two alleged gunmen, 17-year-olds Daniel Reed and Isaiah Nuñez. A 16-year-old accused of driving the car that brought them to the Whataburger has also been arrested, but has not been identified due to his age.

All face charges of murder and aggravated assault.

“I’m going to pray for you,” Erica said. “I forgive you, with everything that I have in me, and I only hope you find your way from here.”

Instagram comment spurred gunfire, court records show

The group belonged to a gang they called FMJ, and according to an arrest-warrant affidavit, the girl who was wounded, but survived, told detectives she was friends with them up until last year, when “they were involved, she believes, with her sister’s overdose and death.”

The affidavit says the girl commented “[Expletive] FMJ” on one of the member’s Instagram accounts, and when a member texted the girl asking her to clarify what she meant by the comment, the situation escalated.

After school Friday, Zechariah and the girl were at the Whataburger across the street from Paschal High School waiting for their grandmother to pick them up when two cars pulled into the parking lot. Police say Reed got out of one of the cars with a gun drawn, yelling “What did you say about FMJ?”

Later, Reed “flinched” toward the girl, who the affidavit says shoved the car door at Reed before turning to walk away. Reed then shot her in the stomach, according to records.

Emerging from behind the car, the other gunman, Nuñez, also shot at the girl, and Zechariah — striking them both, according to court documents. In total, the girl was shot twice, the second time while she was already on the ground, while the affidavit says Zechariah was shot at eight to 10 times. It is unclear how many times he was hit.

“I know that my son jumped in front of her,” Erica said, adding that while Zechariah was known to be a jokester, he also had “the biggest heart.”

“Even though he was taken, he did everything we instilled in him, everything we taught him to do. He’s our hero.”

‘No part of our school untouched’

Jessica Leavitt, assistant principal at Paschal High School, where Zechariah was a student, described him as “an infectious soul.”

“He had a smile that would make you smile just by seeing it,” Leavitt told The Dallas Morning News. “He just came across as a big teddy bear. He will always hold a piece of my heart, and I will forever be grateful for the time I got to spend with him.”

Paschal, according to Leavitt, operates like a close-knit family, and she stressed how difficult that has made “what was already a devastating loss.”

“Our goal is to make sure everyone is seen, so teachers, custodians, cafeteria staff, they all know these kids by name,” she said. “It’s a great thing, but it also means something like this leaves no part of our school untouched. It’s just heartbreaking.”

Leavitt said school staff, who will remain “vigilant” in the days ahead, are actively seeking out students who may need additional support and increasing campus security. Alyssa Kamo, a freshman at Paschal, said while she understands the need for extra precautions, the changes have made it hard for students to take their minds off the shooting.

“It’s been hectic,” Kamo said. “There has already been a pretty heavy police presence, in the parking lot and in the hallways, and they’ve been installing more and more metal detectors. It’s just hard to know what to do, because we’ve never experienced anything like this before.”

‘Grief into action’

Just as Beth Evers, pastor at University United Methodist Church, started to deliver the vigil’s opening prayer, Zechariah’s grandmother, Rocio Cervantes, fell to her knees in anguish. Zechariah’s girlfriend, 18-year-old Corina Camacho, clutched her chest as she cried so hard she struggled to catch her breath. Tears streamed down the cheeks of a group of his Whataburger co-workers as they walked across the street from the restaurant, one holding a small bouquet of orange roses, the same shade as his uniform.

But in addition to mourning and remembering Zechariah, Evers called on the crowd to commit to turning “grief into action.”

“Community is coming out in the dark of night to shine a light and offer one another hope — hope that together, we can create a community where there is no more violence, there is no more parent grieving their child and there is no more empty chair in a classroom,” she said.

Evers encouraged attendees to start then, by writing messages of hope in the margins of a banner that read “Paschal Strong.” By the time the crowd cleared out for the night, there was hardly a blank space left.

Among the promises of prayer, were notes such as “May you always be remembered for the brave young man you are,” “We will embrace your courage to protect,” and, just as Evers hoped: “Our community will not let this happen again.”

“I believe we can create that community, and we have to believe it, because we can’t keep doing this,” Evers said. “We can’t lose another precious life.”

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