Tears filled the eyes of 15-year-old Aaliyah Gavia as she thought of one of her best friends, now in critical condition in a Fresno hospital.
Nick Kauls, 17, was shot in the head Sunday night in Fig Garden as he ran from unknown suspects who demanded his belongings.
"Who does that?" Aaliyah said . "He had his whole life ahead of him. … Why violence? … He doesn't deserve this, nobody does, but especially him. When I found out, I was bawling."
Aaliyah and other students and community members filled the gymnasium at San Joaquin Memorial High School, where Nick attends school, on Tuesday night for a prayer service.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Aaliyah had just come from Community Regional Medical Center, where she said Nick was on life support.
At one point Tuesday night, those gathered broke into small groups to say personalized prayers, then lit white candles on a table as a woman sang Christian songs while playing an acoustic guitar.
"Each of you are a light to one another," said Clarissa Myers, director of campus ministry. "Even if you feel like you're not, you are."
Students said Nick plays soccer, loves music and is an artist.
"He was a good athlete, he carried himself well, he wasn't rude to anybody and he was an all-around good guy," said Aric Eades, 14.
Nick was shot around 11:45 p.m. Sunday night outside a home near Van Ness and Rialto avenues.
Investigators said Nick was with a friend, who was not identified, when several people in a light-colored, mid-sized SUV pulled up alongside them and demanded belongings. The teens ran, and someone in the vehicle fired several shots. One struck Nick in the head. Nick's friend was able to get inside a home. The suspects drove away on Rialto Avenue.
It’s unknown if the boys were specifically targeted or chosen at random.
Tony Botti, spokesman for the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, said Tuesday night that the department didn't have information about the suspects.
Anyone with information about the case, or who may have surveillance footage, is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 559-600-3111, detective Adam Maldonado at 559-231-6944, or detective Adrian Villegas at 559-600-8210. Tips can also be made anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 559-498-7867 and may be eligible for a cash reward, which was bumped to $3,000 Wednesday.
Aric's father, Kalim Scott, said it's "very eye-opening" that the shooting happened in Fig Garden, considered an affluent part of town, to a kid going to a private school in Fresno.
"We often think bad things happen, but it doesn't really happen to us," Scott said.
Bishop Armando Ochoa of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno led a prayer and shared gratitude "not only for your prayers, but your presence." Ochoa said he was impressed by a gathering of students at the hospital, who joined him for another prayer there.
Aric hopes those prayers keep coming.
"Keep everybody that was involved in your prayers and just hope for the best," he said, "that's all we can do."
Fundraiser for family
A GoFundMe account has been set up for Nick's family. The page says, "We are asking you to show your love for Nick and his mom by continuing to pray for him and, if you can, by donating to help with the medical bills and other expenses. Lisa has been at his side continuously and is unable to work."
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than $30,000 of a $50,000 goal had been pledged. (It had been originally set at $30,000 but quickly surpassed.)