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Family, community mourn loss of young man killed in robbery at Baltimore store, decry gun violence

Redemptorist Father Alipio Flores, associate pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus-Sagrado Corazón de Jesús in the Highlandtown section of Baltimore, prays for peace and justice during a May 7, 2023, vigil walk at T-Mobile in Canton where Fabian Alberto Sánchez González was shot April 30, and died the next day. From left are City Councilman Zeke Cohen; Humberto Sánchez, Fabian's father; Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scottt; Alma Rosa Gonzalez, Fabian's mother; and Fabian's brothers Jesus Sánchez-González, Julio Contreras and Carlos Sánchez-González. (OSV News photo/Priscila González de Doran, special to the Catholic Review)

BALTIMORE– Led by the mother, father and other family members of a 23-year-old Catholic who was shot and killed while working at a T-Mobile store in Baltimore, nearly 80 people walked through city streets May 7 in a peaceful call for change.

“We want justice!” the people shouted in English and Spanish as they walked through East Baltimore. “No more violence in our streets!”

Fabian Alberto Sánchez González died May 1, a day after he was shot in a robbery attempt at T-Mobile in the Baltimore neighborhood of Canton.

According to a Baltimore City Police news release, two suspects were arrested May 4: 18-year-old Arthur McCaden and his 14-year-old brother.

The walking vigil in Fabian’s memory began at Sacred Heart of Jesus/Sagrado Corazón de Jesús in Baltimore’s Highlandtown section and proceeded to the T-Mobile store.

Sacred Heart was one of two Catholic churches where Fabian had worshipped with family members over the course of his brief life. His funeral Mass will be celebrated there May 13.

“No family should wish their child to have a good day at work and on the same day receive a call that they were shot 30 minutes before their shift ended,” Carlos Sánchez-González said to the crowd, reading a statement from the family.

Fabian’s youngest brother said his hardworking brother’s dream was to buy a house for their mother, where all his family could live together.

Those who walked and spoke at the vigil included Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott, Baltimore City Council member Zeke Cohen, Redemptorist Father Alipio Flores and several leaders from different church denominations.

“There is no pain like seeing a life full of potential cut short,” the mayor said, “but today all we have to do is pour love into this family.”

Before the vigil walk started, Scott introduced himself to all the family members, gave his condolences and affirmed that he would be there for the family, even after “the trial is over and the cameras are gone.”

“Today it was me. They destroyed my family and (killed) a good young man who had dreams and would only work,” Alma Rosa González, Fabian’s mother, said to the mayor.

She also said she wanted to be present, with her family, at the court trial in her son’s killing. “We want this to stop,” she added.

“We are halfway there,” Scott responded, explaining that two suspects remain in custody, and the state’s attorney is proceeding with the case. On May 8, a Baltimore judge denied the two suspects bail.

“We need a lot more gun control,” the mayor told the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. “We need to make sure that folks who have guns are mentally prepared, have the age and maturity enough to handle it.”

“Teenagers should not be able to go online, order parts of a gun and then put it together and use it,” he added.

While she walked at the vigil and prayed outside the T-Mobile store, Fabian’s mother wore a long black veil and carried a sign that said, in Spanish: “They took away my son Fabian.”

Fabian graduated from eighth grade at St. Ignatius Loyola Academy in 2014 and then went to Cristo Rey Jesuit High School.

Julio Contreras, Fabian’s older brother, told the Catholic Review that Fabian went to St. Ignatius after encountering “a tough time with other kids” with bullying at his previous school.

Like Cristo Rey, St. Ignatius Loyola Academy is run by the Jesuits. The tuition-free school provides an education to youngsters from underserved neighborhoods.

James Fiore, a former St. Ignatius school counselor who was Fabian’s counselor and coached him in wrestling during middle school, said the young man was “easy-going, sweet, gentle like a teddy bear and with a good sense of humor.”

“It’s so sad that so many families have been affected” by his death, Fiore said. “You have an 18-year-old and a 14-year-old who will probably be serving life sentences and a family who has lost their second-oldest child.”

He said he helped Fabian to get into Cristo Rey and mentored him during high school. The school is part of the Cristo Rey network of schools that prepare students with college-prep academics and a corporate internship program.

Eliseo Ortega, a parishioner at St. Clement I Church in suburban Lansdowne, whom Fabian would refer to as “uncle,” said he feels “very hurt because he was so close to us.” His son, Richard Ortega, was Fabian’s childhood friend and attended Cristo Rey High School with him.

“It is very difficult as a parent because you don’t expect this,” Ortega said. “You think it is not going to happen and it happens to you. Unfortunately, authorities can’t keep up with crime and this is the price that one has to pay.”

As immigrants, he said, “we cannot express all we feel due to fear of laws.” He added that “there are a lot of people living in the shadows with no voice or vote” because of the current immigration situation in this country. It makes him and other immigrants “hide,” he said.

Rudicela Merino, a parishioner at Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Highlandtown, said that despite not knowing Fabian or his family, she attended the walk because “nobody deserves to die this way.”

“You leave your house and don’t know if you can come back home because of the violence we face in this city,” she said.

Carlos Crespo, a parishioner of St. Clare Church in Essex, Maryland, also called for gun control laws.

“Not only Hispanic families are suffering, but Caucasians and African Americans,” he said. “Today it was them; tomorrow it can be you or me.”

Father Flores, associate pastor at Sacred Heart, said, “We are united in this tragic cause asking for justice and peace for this town.”

“Regardless of where we are coming from, let us not think of violence anymore, but peace in our country and in our Baltimore City,” he said before praying with the people.

Humberto Sánchez, Fabian’s father, said that “God’s grace” is slowly getting his family through a very difficult situation.

“If it (his son’s tragic death) was his will, then we’ve got nothing left but to accept his will,” he said to the Catholic Review in Spanish. “God knows what he is doing; he never makes a mistake,” he added.

Lucia Islas, who has worked closely assisting the family, said they want to start a scholarship to honor Fabian’s memory, which could assist students from St. Ignatius and Cristo Rey, among other schools.

“This violence needs to stop, and we want justice for my brother,” Carlos Sánchez-González said. “May he now rest in peace.”