SAN ANTONIO – Steven Cerna's mother said she believes her emotionally troubled 21-year-old son fell victim to his trusting nature.
"My son was slow. He was schizophrenic. He wouldn't hurt anybody," said his mother, who did not want to be identified for her own safety.
San Antonio police are still looking for three suspects believed responsible for Cerna's shooting death last Friday. His body was found in the 1100 block of Shadwell near a drainage culvert known as for decades as "Hell's Gate."
"Apparently he ran and they followed him and they shot him for no reason and just left him there," his mother said.
She said although she'd struggled with her son as a single parent, "He always called me. He always came home. He always let me know where he was at."
But his mother said due to his illness, he had difficulty making friends.
"He would wander in the parking lot," she said.
She said that was where he was approached by a man in his 40s about a month ago.
Cerna's mother said the man showed up at 3 a.m. Friday to pick up her son, but she pleaded with him to stay home.
His mother said she told him, "Steven, don't leave. You can't trust him. You don't know him."
She said he answered, "Mom, they're my friends."
That night on the news, his mom heard the description of the car she'd seen her son get into hours earlier, a maroon sedan with a broken windshield.
Police said it also was used as a getaway vehicle after neighbors reported hearing four to six gunshots.
Investigators have not released a motive, but the preliminary police report indicated possible gang involvement.
His mother said prior to being diagnosed with schizophrenia in his mid-teens, Cerna had been a member of a small gang.
As they prepared to make his funeral arrangements, Cerna's mother and other family members tried Monday to visit the place where he died.
Instead, Cerna's family stood outside a locked gate, reinforced by city workers in the wake of the shooting.
Cris Medina, who represents District 7 on the San Antonio City Council, said the area already was known for "graffiti, illegal dumping, folks trying to get back into the drainage culvert, and hide out there."
He said steel bars were installed at the base of a chained link gate to prevent people from crawling underneath. Medina said he also wants the other end of the ditch to be sealed off as well. Medina said he's also talking with CPS Energy about additional lighting along the ditch that winds through the near northwest side neighborhood, near Longfellow Middle School.
An unidentified neighbor said, "It's the best thing they can do. The children walk through here from school."