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.
Marquez’s mother requested that the community hold a bonfire Sunday night to promote healing for Aztec students, families and community members. Marquez’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday in Farmington. The bonfire will be held on private property along the North Main Avenue extension. People can start gathering at 4 p.m.; the first will be lit between 5:30 and 6 p.m. According to the Farmington Daily Times, students from around New Mexico will take buses to attend the bonfire, coming from as far away as Moriarty and Artesia.
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.