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‘My angel;’ a father remembers his boy, slain in Orange shooting spree

The last thing Rafael Farias remembers hearing from his son, Matthew, were the words the little boy told him every day: “I love you, Daddy.”

Hours later, on Wednesday, March 31, a gunman locked down an office complex in Orange and shot and killed four people, including Matthew.

“He was my angel,” said Rafael Farias, of Santa Ana.

“He was my engine to keep me moving. Everything in my life was for him.”



Matthew, a third-grader at Hoover Elementary in Santa Ana who turned 9 on Feb. 21, died in the arms of his mother, according to authorities. She was critically wounded while apparently trying to protect Matthew from the suspected shooter, Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez.

Gonzalez was wounded, with a gunshot to the head, when officers with the Orange Police Department exchanged fire with him, shortly after 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Gonzalez, 44, was charged on Friday, April 2, with four counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. He also is suspected of killing Matthew’s older sister, Jenevieve Raygoza, 28, and her father, Luis Tovar, 50, along with Leticia Solis Guzman, 58.

Rafael Farias said Friday afternoon that Matthew’s mother, Blanca Ismeralda Tamayo, remained hospitalized in critical condition. Tamayo also is the mother of Raygoza, who sometimes spelled her first name as “Genevieve.”

Tovar, Guzman and Tamayo all worked together at Unified Homes, a mobile sales office located at the two-story building at 202 W. Lincoln Ave.

Speaking by phone in a shaky voice, Rafael Farias described how Matthew, his only child, had been working on virtual school assignments earlier in the day when he poked his head up to say ‘Hi’ to his father. Farias, who juggles several jobs in real estate, mortgage transactions, and insurance collection for a hospital, said he’d just woken up.

“He would come and give me a hug and go back to his table,” Rafael Farias said about Matthew. “Every morning.”

Matthew would typically finish his schoolwork around 1:30 p.m. and his mother would then take him to daycare. But on some days, when Tamayo figured she would not be finished in time to fetch their son before his daycare closed at 6 p.m., she would take him with her to the office, Farias said. He thinks that’s why Matthew was at the site of the shooting.

Farias said dark-haired Matthew loved soccer, riding his bike and games of tag, his favorite. He loved his dog, Ruby, a boxer. And he loved playing video games on his Xbox.

“It’s heartbreaking that he is no longer here,” Farias said. “It’s hard.”

Brenda Ramirez, cousin to Rafael Farias, recalled Matthew as competitive, athletic and bright.

“He was big into sports,” Ramirez said. “He always wanted to win – whether he was watching a favorite team play or he was the one playing. He was all about achieving.”

Matthew was also a good student and well-liked by his teachers, Ramirez said.

“He was so smart. Just a champion in everything he did.”

People are rallying around Rafael Farias, including with a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Matthew’s funeral.

“Rafael is heartbroken, especially to have lost his son in such a violent way,” Ramirez said. “But we are getting so much support from family and friends, who have been sharing their thoughts and love. Everyone is mobilizing to help. That is so critical for Rafael right now.”

In the days since the shooting a stream of Matthew’s teachers and friends have visited the Farias home or contacted him.

“Every teacher I see tells me he was their favorite,” Rafael Farias said.

Farias said he tried to work jobs with flexible hours so he and Matthew could spend more time together. Farias was building an accessory dwelling unit in his backyard, a financial legacy intended for Matthew. He would tell his son that everything he did was for him. Matthew, he said, felt the same.

“He said, ‘Daddy, I want to be with you the rest of my life.’”

Staff writer Nathaniel Percy contributed to this report. 

Source: Orange County Register

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