SAN ANTONIO – Smoke blew thick in the air Saturday as people bought up plates to benefit a grieving family.
"Just knowing that people are here, letting us know that they care — it helps a little bit," Rene Blancas Sr. said.
Blancas' son, Rene Blancas Jr., was shot and killed on Nov. 4, just days shy of his fourth birthday, as he rode in the family's car. As his parents grieve and wait for his killer to be caught, they have found their community is with them.
From a vigil hosted by their son's coaches to reassuring words from public officials or the turnout at Saturday's plate sale, wherever they turn, the family has found support.
"It just shows me how much love he spread in order for people to come and help us out right now," Blancas Sr. said.
"We're not alone in this situation, even though it seems like we're in a dark corner, but we're not alone," said Melanie Santos, Rene Jr.'s mother. "We have support from everybody."
That was readily apparent at Saturday's plate sale at the 410 Sports Bar on Southton Road, which was organized by current and former co-workers from Blancas Sr.'s job at C.I.G. Logistics.
"His boy's one of our boys. Doesn't matter. His kids, that's our kids," said Adrian Del Toro, who used to work with Blancas Sr.
The same regard was on display from the people buying up plates faster than they could be cooked up.
"We've had people come buying 50 plates, 30 plates," said Nicole Blancas, Blancas Sr.'s sister.
Blancas Sr.'s said the money will help the family go toward medical and funeral expenses, as well as the cost of moving to a new place and replacing the car in which Rene Jr. was shot. It will also help with day-to-day expenses, as Blancas Sr. hasn't been back to work since the shooting.
"I can't find my focus just yet," he said.
Blancas Sr. said the plate sale came as a surprise to the family.
"Someone showed us a flyer of this, and I didn't even know they were going to something like this for us, and it's a good feeling, though — knowing that I work for a company and a bunch of co-workers like that," he said.
Police are still looking for Rene Jr.'s killer, and have released a composite sketch of the suspect, who was seen driving a 2006 beige or gold Honda Civic with a tinted eyebrow on the windshield.
If you have information on the shooting, call SAPD Homicide detectives at 210-207-7635 or Crime Stoppers at 210-224-7867.