Community mourns, honors Aztec H.S. shooting victim
FARMINGTON — The Four Corners community honored and celebrated the life of Francisco I. “Paco” Fernandez Jr., a victim of the Dec. 7 shooting at Aztec High School, today.
A memorial service was held at Pinon Hills Community Church in Farmington, followed by a procession to Memory Gardens Cemetery, where the 17-year-old was laid to rest.
His family requested privacy as they “mourn and honor our son,” according to a statement from the family.
“We are extremely thankful and overwhelmed by the love, prayers and support that has been shown by the entire community to our family during this very difficult time,” the family said in the statement. “While our son Paco has now entered the gates of heaven, the love he had for his family and friends will live on forever. His passion for life was evident in every way – from spending time with his family and friends to cheering his favorite sports teams. His love was transforming – he had a way of making you want to be a better person.
“We continue to feel his love, and it’s comforting to know that he will live forever in our hearts,” the Fernandez family said. “We appreciate the community’s understanding and respect for our wishes by allowing us our private time to mourn and honor our son.”
The memorial service was held in one of the largest venues in town, and hundreds of people from around Four Corners attended the service. The procession that followed included dozens of bikers and a number of vintage and low-rider cars and lasted approximately 15 minutes.
Community members decorated the procession route with balloons, streamers and messages of support in Aztec school colors, orange and black. Marquel Ryan and other members of Sage Brush Community Church decorated a fence along Pinon Hills Road with orange and black cups that spelled out Aztec before the procession on Friday.
“As people, you want to do something (to respond to a tragedy), and there’s not always much you can do, so we feed people and we tell them to come over and we put up signs on the road – stuff like that, just something to feel like you’re doing something to be helpful in such a horrible time,” Ryan said.
People lined the sidewalk at the corner of Pinon Hills Boulevard and East Main Street, where the procession turned on the way to the cemetery, to show support.
Rachel Brown, an AHS junior, said she wanted to greet the procession to support Fernandez.
"He was a great guy," Brown said. "He was funny. He always had jokes and was smiling 24-7."
Seeing and feeling the support offered by the community has made a difference to her, Brown said.
“It’s helping the kids out a lot,” Brown said. “It’s great to see the community coming together like this. You never knew how close we were until something like this happened. It sucks that it happened, but watching what it turned our community into and how close it brought us together has been really amazing.”
Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.