San Antonio – A San Antonio family is heartbroken now that they are planning their loved one’s funeral instead of his college spring graduation celebration.
Patrick Zavala, 27, passed away Jan. 3 after being taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound.
The incident stemmed from what was initially a crash call at Ingram Road near Loop 410 on Monday, Jan. 3.
When San Antonio police arrived, just after midnight, they found Zavala unconscious from a gunshot wound and a single shell casing inside the truck he was driving.
Paulette Torres, his sister, said she is still coping from the news. She remembers her baby brother as being a very special man.
“When we were little, he was amazing,” Torres said. “He was always funny. He would play with me with his hands and pretend they were puppets. It would always make me laugh and I would tell him, ‘Do it again! Do it again!’ He was just always there.”
As they got older, the two became very close.
Torres said her brother has never changed.
“He was the best uncle to my two kids,” she said. “All of his nieces and nephews love and miss him. He was very joyful and loving. He loved to laugh.”
The family and close family friends even had a inside joke they’d play with Zavala.
“I started it,” Torres said as she laughed alongside Zavala’s best friend, Isabel Aldaba. “I always had a habit of pinching him in the chest. We all would do it and he would say, ‘Stop it! Stop it!’ He would just laugh. He was amazing. He was always respectful and such a sassy boy. Polite and hard-working.”
Aldaba, who has been best friends with him for several years, agreed.
“He was crazy,” Aldaba laughed as she tried holding back tears. “But he was so happy. The smiles. The laughter. He always put everyone first. He loved helping people. He did volunteer work. He worked at an assisted living. He just loved helping people. That is all he ever wanted to do.”
Zavala was going to San Antonio College to one day become a nurse.
His sister said he was scheduled to graduate in April.
“He loved school,” Aldaba said. “He would always get mad if he thought he was about to fail a class. He would call me and say, ‘Bel! I am so scared! I am so scared!’ Then he would be like, ‘Bel! I passed it! I passed it!’ He was always independent and was so stubborn, but he had so many plans to be successful.”
Torres said Zavala had been working at CiCi’s Pizza for four days before the fatal shooting happened.
“His classmates thought it was weird that he didn’t show up for work or to school,” Torres said. “It was 1 a.m. and my sister had called me upset. They called my dad saying he got in an accident and he was driving my dad’s truck. I was so at peace because I didn’t think anything serious had happened.”
Torres said she drove by the area where her dad’s truck was located.
“I went and picked up my dad and I saw the truck,” she said. “It was right by my dad’s house and not even crashed or anything. We asked if we could just take the truck, but they said it was under investigation. We didn’t know the reason, but we started thinking Patrick got a heart attack or something. We didn’t think about him getting shot or anything.”
Zavala’s dog was with him at the time of the shooting and Torres was able to recover it.
“From there, we went to the hospital and they were asking for all of his information,” Torres said. “I started thinking that maybe he couldn’t move or speak. I just wanted to know he was alive. Then they took me and my dad to a room. All of these nurses and a doctor came in and they said he had been shot and they tried to help him but couldn’t.”
She said that is when she broke down and her dad went into shock.
“They took him,” she said as she wept. “He was my everything. I called my sister and told her. The nurses left and that is when the detectives came in. I can’t sleep or eat. I miss him so much. I want him back and I can’t have him back,” she said as she wept harder.
At this time, the family said they don’t know if Zavala was shot outside of the truck or while he was inside.
Torres had this to say to whomever is responsible.
“Why did you take him from me,” Torres said through tears. “Why would you do that to him? He was a great person. You took half of my heart. That was my baby brother. I put it all in God’s hands, but you will pay. I’m not saying I am going to try to kill you or anything like that because I don’t do that. I will leave it in God’s hands, and I pray you are found.”
Torres and Aldaba said they all had plans to get different SpongeBob tattoos to show their bond with each other.
Zavala planned to get a tattoo of Patrick.
Now, they may get tattoos of their SpongeBob character joining hands with Patrick Star as a symbol of their love.
“Like Patrick Star is with SpongeBob, Patrick was always there for everyone,” Aldaba said. “He loved everyone. He deserves justice and we will get it.”
The family is raising money for funeral expenses.
At this time, Zavala’s services will begin at the Castillo Funeral Home, located at 520 N. General McMullen on Sunday, Jan. 16.
The visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. and the Rosary is scheduled for 6 p.m.
On Jan. 17, the Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Jude Catholic Church at 10 a.m.
The services are open to the public and the family asks that people wear bright and colorful outfits symbolizing what Zavala would have wanted.
San Antonio police are still searching for the suspect responsible.
They are asking anyone with any information to contact their homicide unit at 210-207-7635.