At 17, Danilo Ashton Arauz didn’t quite yet know what he wanted to do after high school, but he was certain of one thing.
“I want to be rich so I could take care of mom,” Arauz would tell his older brother, Blake Goldstein. “No matter what I do, as long as I can take care of mom.”
With producing rap music among his interests, Arauz’ love for his mother and a desire to create generational wealth could be heard in one of the songs he wrote, “COMMAS,” posted on his SoundCloud in March.
“I just like to count commas, I’mma count it spendin’, you know, for my mama,” Arauz rapped melodically over an 808 drum beat, referring to the commas between six-figure dollar amounts.
On Sunday evening, Sept. 5, while at a friend’s home on North Holbrook in Anaheim Hills just down the street from his Glenview Avenue home, Arauz was shot. Three days later, surrounded by his mother, father, brothers and sisters at Orange County Global Medical Center in Santa Ana, he was taken off life support and died of his wounds.
Police accused his friend of pulling the trigger and lying about it to officers by telling them Arauz had been hit by a drive-by shooter. Authorities arrested 18-year-old Zachary Pickrell and are pursuing murder charges.
An empty space
A decade age gap between Arauz and his siblings meant a lot of time for Arauz and his mother, Janet, to grow close.
“He was always a mama’s boy, so they were like best friends,” said Goldstein, who is 14 years older than Arauz.
Though his mother was perhaps his closest friend, Arauz built friendships wherever he went, whether at the skatepark, in the classroom, in online servers for video games like Fortnite, making music with other aspiring artists, or hanging out with classmates around his Anaheim Hills neighborhood where he went to school and lived for the past eight years.
And as police have declined to discuss the circumstances of the shooting, leaving many questions and gaps in the narrative, the community Arauz built attempted to fill the empty space by coming together on Friday to grieve and remember him.
“I’ve never met someone as joyful and full of life,” said Celeste Navarrete, a classmate of Arauz. “He was like no one else.”
She and at least 50 others huddled together on Friday in Yorba Regional Park, several miles from where Arauz was shot, lighting candles and laying flowers at the base of a large tree, and embracing one another.
The vigil, organized by friends, brought together students from different high schools who met and befriended Arauz through his many circles. Arauz was a student at El Camino Real High School and former student at Esperanza High School.
Arauz’ mother Janet and brother Blake also were present.
Navarrete and Arauz had known each other since middle school, but grew closer together as high schoolers and during the pandemic. She recalled when Arauz came to school wearing two completely different shoes in his rush to get to school and hadn’t noticed until she pointed it out.
“He was always making everyone laugh,” she said.
‘Didn’t deserve this’
Goofy and sweet were among the first words out of Goldstein’s mouth when asked to describe his younger brother. Fourteen years his senior, Goldstein and his other brother, the eldest, helped their mother, Janet, raise Arauz.
They took him to Disneyland when he was younger, went on hikes, and indulged Arauz’ passion for fried chicken, pho, and sushi.
“The kid was always hungry,” Goldstein said.
The first and last day of the school year, Goldstein and Arauz would celebrate with a meal at In-N-Out Burger.
“That was his go-to place. It was a thing we’d do – it was just me and him,” Goldstein said.
From receiving a frantic call from his mother to the moments in the hospital room after his brother died, the past week was “a blur,” Goldstein said.
“I’m still trying to process, myself,” he said. “I still don’t think it’s real.”
Under one of Arauz’ recent songs, which surfaced on his SoundCloud profile Monday, grieving friends left a wall of lamentations.
“I love you brother,” users wrote. “I hate this,” “Didn’t deserve this,” “Everyone will miss you,” “We makin it for you.”
The number of streams on the song grew from a couple hundred to more than 2,000 by the end of the week.
The hashtag “LLAA,” – seeming to suggest the phrase “long live Ashton Arauz” – was scattered throughout the comment thread, like a hope that Arauz, in some way, would continue to live on.
At the vigil, friends scrawled the hashtag on white t-shirts along with other well wishes, like “Rest easy lil homie!” and “Gone too soon.” Family members also signed some of the shirts. Arauz’ friends took them home as mementos.
Between moments of silence, friends shared stories of Arauz’s caring nature, his daily check-ins, and mentorship of younger students.
Toward the end of the vigil, a friend wheeled out a helium tank and members of the crowd filled up white balloons.
It was just before sunset. One by one, the friends let go, sending the balloons into the orange sky.
Source: Orange County Register