Unsheltered community remembers one of their own killed last week

Shooting death of William Hawkins seen on surveillance video

Friends and family of 35-year-old William Hawkins were comforted by song, poetry and prayer during a memorial service Thursday at Christian Assistance Ministry, and by the words of tribute and remembrance by those who knew and loved him.

SAN ANTONIO – Friends and family of 35-year-old William Hawkins were comforted by song, poetry and prayer and by the words of tribute and remembrance by those who knew and loved him during a memorial service Thursday at Christian Assistance Ministry.

Among them was a man named Happy, who said he ran from the West Side to just east of downtown to attend the service.

Happy said he wanted to reassure those who had gathered that he believed Hawkins was saying, “I’ve earned my halo and I’ve earned my wings, and so will y’all. I’ll be waiting for you on the other side.”

He was one of several other members of the San Antonio’s unsheltered community who frequent the area, like Hawkins had, often panhandling.

They believe Hawkins may have been doing that when he approached a man outside a gas station across the street from where the service was held.

CAM surveillance video shows the man in what appeared to be a safety vest fatally shoot Hawkins seconds after they began talking.

The man, who drove away and parked nearby, was questioned by SAPD but no charges had been filed as of Thursday.

Rogelio Altamirano, who said he’d known Hawkins for years, hadn’t seen the video, but said, “All I know is that he wasn’t up there doing anything that he wasn’t supposed to do.”

Altamirano said Hawkins wasn’t an aggressive person, far from it.

“He was real gentle, real caring. He was just a sweetheart,” Altamirano said.

Hawkins’ mother, Margaret, who experienced homelessness with her son at one time, said she doesn’t understand why her son died the way he did.

“I don’t see how somebody without a gun, nothing, without nothing, can be a threat to anyone,” she said.

His brother, Ronald, said what happened shouldn’t mean “open season” on the people like his brother.

He said, in fact, they should be treated better than they are now.

“Respected as human beings and people, not just someone you just see on the street,” Ronald said.

Billy Mahone, director of community engagement with the South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless, said in a statement that Hawkins had another life at one time.

“He grew up on the city’s Northwest Side, attending Hobby Middle School and Clark High School in his youth. At one point, he had a job and his own place to stay,” Mahone said.

Hawkins’ mother said her son suffered with mental illness.

“But to know him without that mental illness is the true person to know,” she said. “Because he was so loving and so kind.”

Rev. Ron Brown said he considered Hawkins “not homeless, a good friend,” who chose to live the life he led.

Brown is a community engagement officer with SAPD and formerly with Haven for Hope, which serves the needs of the unhoused.

“No matter what the conditions were, no matter what he was going through, always a smile,” he said.

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Bill Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.