AUSTIN (KXAN) — Family, friends and community members held a candlelight vigil Friday night to honor the life of Brett Cardenas.
The 13-year-old eighth grader from Bailey Middle School died Sunday after a traffic incident in the Olympic Heights neighborhood.
The vigil started at 7:30 p.m. near the scene of the accident, which happened in the 11300 block of Menchaca Road.
Hours before the sun went down, Samantha Munoz was at the site of the vigil.
It’s become part of her routine for the past six days to care for the growing memorial, just like she cared for Cardenas since he was in the first grade.
“I hope that he can feel us, give us all unity in our pain, because we just don’t understand why this happened,” Munoz said.
For family friends like Munoz, the tears haven’t stopped. The embraces are a little tighter as she shares memories of Cardenas with his eighth-grade friends to help cope with the unimaginable pain.
“His friends are having a really tough time, many are just lost,” Munoz explained.
A group of Cardenas’ friends filled a whiteboard with memories and special messages honoring their friend.
“He was always nice to everybody. He would make jokes and make people laugh and smile even when they were mad,” said his friend, Alejandro.
“He was an amazing person, a great friend, so it was very hard to not have him at school when I needed him,” said his friend, Morgan Bergin.
Many of his friends wore his favorite color, red, to the vigil. Others held candles, lined the sidewalk and filled the street, all just steps away from where the 13 year old was killed.
Prayers for peace echoed through the crowd as they remembered Cardenas’ short life while trying to understand his death.
The Austin Police Department arrested Xavier Zarate, 41, in connection with the incident. He was charged with injury to a child.
According to an arrest affidavit, a witness told police Zarate confronted Cardenas and one of his friends who “supposedly” threw excrement at his front door.
The witness said the boys were on bicycles, and Zarate drove up behind them, got out of his car and “immediately” began punching the teens.
The affidavit said the witness tried to break up the fight when he saw Zarate’s car rolling forward. The SUV continued forward and rolled over one of the teens and his bike, the witness told police.
Cardenas was taken to the hospital where he later died from his injuries, according to police.