The mother sat in silent grief Tuesday morning through the benediction and prayers. She held her smallest son close, leaned on friends and family, dabbed her eyes with a tissue.
But when the time came to say goodbye to slain 13-year-old Eduardo “Lalo” Lagunas, to lower the child-sized white casket into the earth, Azucena Reyes broke into anguished wails.
Her legs gave out, her fists clenched.
Held up by cousins and her eldest son, 16-year-old José Lagunas, Reyes cried her dead son’s name.
“Lalo,” she said in Spanish through chest-heaving sobs. “Lalo, my son.”
Reyes was surrounded Tuesday by more than 200 people who came to Cherokee Memorial Park in Lodi to remember the fallen teen.
Some of the mourners wore traditional black. His close friends and family wore bright white T-shirts in honor of the boy’s innocence and youth, relatives said.
They held white balloons close in the warm morning breeze throughout the ceremony. Then, as male relatives lined up to scatter dirt across the grave, they let them float away toward the blue, cloudless sky.
“The soul of Eduardo rests now,” said the Rev. Jorge Arboleda of St. Anne’s Catholic Church, who led the ceremony Tuesday. “He rests in peace.”
It was the final farewell to a boy many described as funny and respectful, a good friend and a loving son whose killing remains unsolved.
Eduardo was shot just after midnight on Feb. 17 in the 900 block of South Garfield Street – on the other side of town from the home he shared with his mother and three brothers.
No one is sure why he was there or what happened in the moments before a spray of bullets ricocheted into nearby apartment courtyards and fences.
Soon after, police said, Eduardo was dropped off by friends at Lodi Memorial Hospital with a gunshot wound to the back of his head. Hospital workers wrote down the license plate number of the vehicle. It was found later in the 400 block of East Locust Street in Lodi and searched by police.
On Feb. 21, Eduardo died in his hospital bed.
Police have not named any suspects in the case, which is being investigated as a homicide.
Detectives are working to determine whether Eduardo’s killing may be related to a Feb. 16 shooting, in which two young men were wounded about 2 miles away while standing on the front porch of a house in the 700 block of North Church Street, police spokesman Lt. Sierra Brucia said.
That case, Brucia said, was the result of conflict between the Norteños and Sureños – Lodi’s most active gangs.
Detectives are seeking the public’s help in gathering information in Eduardo’s death.
José Lagunas told The Sacramento Bee on Sunday that his brother began acting out after their father, Bernardo Lagunas, was deported to Mexico about three years ago. He said his brother would leave the house and stay out late, often returning with no explanation as to where he’d been.
He suspected Eduardo was running with older, tougher guys, possibly gang members, and got caught up in a world José Lagunas tried to keep from his younger brother.
“I told him not to go out there and hang out in the street,” José said during a car wash the family held Sunday to help raise money to cover funeral costs. “I’d rather see him in jail than where he is now. Anything is better than this. Anything is better than seeing your brother dead.”