Maria Garcia remembers everything that happened on the day she said goodbye to Angel and Jazy, her two oldest sons, for the last time.
Jazy, who had just turned 17, surprised everyone that night when he said he was going with Angel, 15, to a friend's quinceañera.
Unlike Angel, an extrovert who was nicknamed "El Guapo" ("pretty boy") for his good looks, Jazy was a bookworm, nerdy and quiet, "more of a wallflower until you got to know him," said his cousin, Melani Garcia Macias.
"Even Angel was surprised, like: 'Are you coming too?'" their mother said. "And Jazy told Angel, 'Yeah, I wanna be with you.'"
Then Angel gave her a kiss and Jazy gave her a hug, and they were out the door with two of their friends. She told them to call or text when they wanted to come home.
"Angel always kissed me and Jazy always hugged me," she said. "I remember that."
Later that night, Maria Garcia would get the impossible news that both sons — the oldest of her six boys, then ages 3 to 17 — had been killed in a shooting in North Oakland at a party for Berkeley High kids.
Two of their friends had been shot but survived.
Authorities have said little about a motive in the crime, but they have described the brothers as innocent victims who were not the intended targets of the shooting.
"Sometimes I feel like I don’t believe it, that these were my kids," Garcia said. "You know when you're dreaming that you won the lottery and then you wake and you don’t know what’s real? Sometimes I feel like that: Maybe it was a good dream when I had them."
Read more about Angel and Jazy on The Scanner.
On a recent Saturday morning, Garcia and her sister, Erika Galavis, sat down with The Berkeley Scanner to reflect on the boys' lives, the past year and how the family is working to move forward after such profound loss.
We met at the Tom Bates Regional Sports Complex, the northwest Berkeley soccer field where the boys spent so much time: Jazy started at age 5, first for the Albany-Berkeley Soccer Club, then, at 7, for Tecos Hayward along with 5-year-old Angel.
(In 2021-22, Angel joined the Richmond Rayados.)
The interview took place on a warm, sunny day against the lively backdrop of matches underway, with shouts and cheers from parents on the sidelines, a periodic whistle from a referee, geese honking overhead.
"We spend a lot of time here. But it also brings us memories of when Jazy was little," said Galavis. "They played here for so many seasons."
A bookworm and an artist
Growing up, the boys went to Le Conte Elementary (now Sylvia Mendez). They attended Longfellow and then went on to Berkeley High.
Jazy, the oldest of the brothers, would have been a senior this year.
"He was very quiet. He loved to read," Garcia said. "I would buy one book for him in Costco and, on the way home, he would finish it."
"You're gonna go to Harvard," she would tell him. "He'd just laugh at me."
Jazy was passionate about Asian culture, including Asian food. And, when he grew up, he wanted to be a dentist.
"You should be," his mom would tell him. "You're gonna have a lot of work with your brothers."
Of all her sons, Garcia said, Jazy was the easiest.
"I always tell Jazy: I want to stay with you, Jazy, because you are so quiet, so peaceful," she said. In a home full of growing boys, including a toddler, that could be a welcome change.
One summer, Jazy stayed in Berkeley with Garcia while his brothers went to Mexico. She recalled how, when she asked him to take out the garbage, he would always do it. If she needed him to vacuum, he didn't complain.
Sometimes she would tease him about it.
"I was like, 'Oh, my God, Jazy, we never fight because you always say yes to me," she said.
With Angel, she said, they were always joking around. They shared a love of scary movies.
She and Angel would talk and talk. And she never missed a chance to tease him about his girlfriend.
Angel was into Legos and puzzles. He loved to color. He dreamed of becoming an architect.
Both boys were a big help at home, Garcia said.
One would go with her on errands, to do laundry or get groceries, while the other stayed home to watch their brothers.
Her third son — a teenager at Berkeley High — now helps out, too, she said, but in a different way.
"I prefer he stays with his brothers," she said. "So now I have to do everything by myself."
"It still feels very raw"
Cousin Melani Garcia Macias, 20, said she has struggled this past year, at times grappling with brain fog, more easily upset by talk of gun violence, sometimes stopped in her tracks by strangers who look just like Angel or Jazy.
"Some days are easier than others," she said. "It still feels very raw."
Macias was just two years older than Jazy, and three years older than Angel, so they grew up close, spending many "park days" playing at San Pablo Park in Berkeley.
Jazy "was a geek," she said. "He always had those rectangle glasses."
Quiet with most people, "he would talk about anything" if you could get him going: "You would start a conversation about a book and you would end up having a conversation about the meaning of the universe."
They often celebrated their birthdays together. He was funny, a protector, someone who would go along with others just to keep them in line.
"Angel was always getting into something," Macias said. "And Jazy was always there to bail him out."
Angel, she said, was often at the center of things, a persuasive talker who was "always making elaborate plans for the group."
More than anything, Angel loved animals. When he was 6, Macias recalled, he found a pet snail.
"This snail was the love of his life," she said. "Angel would never follow directions. So my tia said, 'I’m gonna take your snail away if you don't listen.' He fell right in line."
All six boys were devoted to Garcia, Macias said: "It was so cute to see them acting all big and tough — and being the biggest mama's boys ever."
Aarón Lechuga, a BUSD restorative justice coordinator, has known the Garcia family for years, from the neighborhood as well as from school.
He described Angel and Jazy as well loved and respected throughout the community: "You always left them feeling better about yourself," he said. "That’s not common for boys, young men their age, to have."
Lechuga said he has tried to see what happened as fuel to overcome life's obstacles. It's a message he also works to share with students.
"I know I’m never gonna really make sense of it," he said. "So I’m just gonna use it to keep moving when I’m tired, keep pushing when I’m discouraged. That’s one way we can honor them."
Questions without answers
So many things changed after the boys were killed.
On their birthdays, family and friends now go to their gravesite at Mount Eden Cemetery in Hayward to remember them.
This year, in June and September, the family bought pizzas and had picnics.
"Their friends, they brought a lot of flowers, they brought balloons," aunt Galavis said. "We cut their cake."
For her, the lesson of the past year has been how senseless life can be.
"No matter how hard you try to raise your kids, if they are at the wrong place at the wrong time, it can happen to anyone," she said. "And that’s something that we learned from this. We never thought our family was gonna go through this."
Maria Garcia said that, even though they marked the boys' birthdays, time is standing still.
"I told my son: It's not Jazy turning 18 anymore," she said. "Jazy’s gonna be 17 forever. Angel’s gonna be 15 forever."
The entire shape of the family has changed, with the third son now the oldest.
It hasn't been easy for any of the boys.
"The little one, he still asks me for his brothers," Garcia said. "When he sees the pictures, he says, 'Oh Mami, but I don’t know where they are.' And it’s hard for me to explain to him — because he’s so little."
"Let me put the clothes away"
In the very beginning, Garcia said, she couldn't go into the boys' room. It hurt too much to see their backpacks and their clothes.
"Jazy's backpack, we never moved it," she said. "It’s still in the same place that he put it."
In his room, there were still new clothes that had not been put away.
Until recently, one of her sons had refused to let her touch them.
"I told him, it’s time for us to let it go. We know they are not here with us, they are with God," she told him. "So let me put the clothes away."
Now, she says, enough time has passed that she's able to go into their room. And she likes to see their photographs.
But what happened still doesn't always feel real.
"Sometimes I don’t even believe that they are not here with me," she said. "I feel like they are in the store or they went another place. I feel like they are still with us."
Faith lost and found
Since the boys were killed, Garcia has relied heavily on her faith.
But for a time, she was unable to believe.
"I said, if God exists, why has this thing happened? Especially with these little brothers?" she said. "Angel and Jazy, they are good boys. They are good sons."
They weren't perfect, she added. They were normal teenage boys. But they didn't get into trouble.
"I told my sister: When I say, 'You don’t go out,' they always stay in the home. When I say, 'You cannot bring your friends,' they are fine," Garcia said. "I told them, 'Do this,' they do it. They always listen to me."
She continued: "But later on I say, OK, God, maybe you are the only one that has the reason why you take these kids from me. Because they were good, good boys. Especially Jazy."
Thirteen months have now passed since that terrible night.
In that time, Garcia said the days have gotten somewhat easier. The nights, not so much.
"In the night, I remember them so much and I start crying," she said. "For me, it's really hard in the night."
In those moments, she said, she prays or calls her sister. Sometimes she talks to her surviving sons.
She has to do something, anything, to make the memories go away.
That's especially true on Saturdays.
"Jazy texted me around 9:30 to pick them up," she said. "I told my sister, sometimes I don’t like Saturday nights. Because I remember that day."
"Why my two boys?"
Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, started out with pancakes.
Garcia made breakfast for her sons and some of their friends who had slept over.
Her Berkeley home was a common hangout spot for the boys and their friends. It still is.
"I like to buy a lot of junk food for them," she confessed.
Garcia spent much of the day at soccer with one of the younger boys.
When she got home, she got to the door just as Jazy opened it. He was holding a blanket and said he and the younger boys were going to watch "Lightyear."
When Angel asked if he could go to a quinceañera with other Berkeley High students, Garcia said yes. Then Jazy surprised everyone by saying he would go, too.
She gave them money to get there and said she would pick them up when they were done.
Jazy texted her around 9:30 p.m. asking for the ride. But then she couldn't reach him.
"When I texted Jazy, he didn’t answer," she said. "I tried like three times: Where are you? Send me your location. Is Angel with you? He didn't answer."
Then she texted Angel. When he didn't respond, she called.
Instead of Angel, a teenage girl answered the phone.
"Who's your son?" she asked.
"I say, 'I'm Angel's mom.' And she starts crying and she passes the phone to her brother. And I say: 'OK, I wanna know, where is Angel?' And he just says, 'I'm sorry. Your son is shot.' And he started crying. And I said, 'No, no, but where is he?' And he hung up."
Garcia said she was able to reach her third son, her other teenager, who had also gone out that night.
Someone had already given him the news. He told her not to go to the house where it happened.
"He said, Mami, don’t go, they are my brothers, the ones that are on the floor," she said.
"No, I need to know," she said. "I need to see if that’s true or not."
Garcia said her sister-in-law and Galavis drove to Berkeley to help her. They began trying to figure out what hospital might have answers.
Garcia tried calling 911.
"My kids went to this party," she told the dispatcher. "I know somebody got shot, but I don’t know if they are my kids or not."
The dispatcher told her an officer would call her back.
That's when Galavis said they should go to the scene, just 3 miles away in the 900 block of Apgar Street in North Oakland, not far from the Emeryville border.
When they got there, an officer asked Garcia to describe her sons: their height, their weight, their clothes. Police also asked her to show them photos of the boys.
At some point, Garcia stepped away briefly and heard an officer telling Galavis: "You need to be with your sister. She's gonna need you. Because she needs to be strong."
Garcia remembers the horror of it hitting her.
"Oh, my God," she thought, as she grabbed Galavis, saying: "Let’s go, Erika, let’s go. Because I know they are my kids. I know."
An officer called her at 3 a.m. to inform her formally.
"In the moment, I didn't believe it," she said. "I didn't believe it, but I had this feeling: They are."
According to witnesses and police, three people opened fire at the birthday party on Apgar Street. They had not been invited to the event.
Details remain sketchy and the narrative has changed, but police indicated that the shooting was due to mistaken identity.
According to court papers, one witness told police he was in the living room with Jazy and Angel when he "heard gunfire and realized he was struck."
He couldn't walk so he crawled out of the house past the brothers. He could tell they wouldn't make it. Both boys were pronounced dead at the scene.
Maria Garcia said she still hasn't been able to make sense of it, why both young lives were lost.
"I don't understand," she said, breaking down. "There were like 40 kids. And I don’t understand: Why my two boys? Why not only one?"
She continued: "Sometimes we don’t have the answer. God is the only one that has the answer for us. I told Erika, maybe now we don't understand what happened. But maybe, many years later, we will understand why."
Family has joined push to recall DA Pamela Price
For now, many questions remain.
A lot of them have to do with the status of the case and how it is being handled by embattled Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price.
It took six months for charges to be filed against one of the alleged killers. He is the only person to have been charged in the murder case.
The young man was 17 at the time of the birthday party and the case remains in juvenile court.
The Garcia family has been fighting for it to be transferred to adult court.
But DA Price said in July that she is opposed to juvenile transfers in most cases.
As a result of her stance, the family has gotten active in the Price recall campaign.
"This has been a long process, and that's partly because of the DA that we have in Alameda County," Galavis said.
She said she believes the case would have moved to adult court had Price not been in charge.
In fact, a district attorney asked for that transfer in April.
Price later had the attorney, a veteran juvenile prosecutor, removed from juvenile cases and put in a different assignment.
Family members say they believe the case will only move to adult court if Price is recalled.
"We don’t want other families to go through the same thing as our family," Galavis said, "where you not only lost your family members, but you also have to face a justice system that doesn’t do justice for the victims."
With so many questions unanswered, she added, the family hopes to be able to learn more about the facts of the case at trial.
Then she paused, adding: "If there is a trial."
Two other people were also suspects in the case.
In June, one of them, Sergio Morales-Jacquez, was found responsible for a different homicide. He is set to remain in juvenile hall for seven years, but that could change.
The third alleged shooter, Jesse Moreno, who was 18 at the time of the party, was convicted in May of an unrelated gun offense.
According to court records, Moreno was charged last year with 10 gun-related crimes, along with reckless driving, when he fled from police less than two weeks after the birthday party shootings.
But most of the charges against him were dropped this year, the result of a plea deal, and he was placed on probation through June 2025.
Jazy and Angel Scholarship honors their memory
To mark the first anniversary of the boys' deaths, the family held a memorial mass Sept. 30 at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church on Addison Street.
"That’s where Jazy and Angel were baptized and that’s where we said their final goodbyes," Galavis said.
It's also where Galavis had her own quinceañera some years ago, and where Maria Garcia got married.
Despite having planned the event just a few days ahead, hundreds of people showed up, just as hundreds attended a vigil last year at Longfellow as well as the boys' funeral mass at St. Joseph several weeks later.
"We received a lot of love and support from the community," Galavis said. "When you go through that pain, you feel comfort to receive all that love from people that we know since the boys were little."
In the past year, community members have rallied to support the family through the unfathomable loss, quickly raising more than $120,000 via GoFundMe, setting up a memorial space last year at Berkeley High and creating the ongoing Jazy and Angel Scholarship fund.
Galavis said the family hopes the scholarship fund will thrive so other students can pursue higher education, "something that Angel and Jazy were not able to do," she said. "We want to give them the opportunity to keep going and follow their dreams."
Maria Garcia said it meant so much last year when Jazy's Bridge program classmates created the scholarship.
"I never imagined they would do something like that for my kids," she said.
And she said she hopes the scholarship will help keep the boys' legacy alive.
Since moving to Berkeley decades ago, she said she could recall other young lives that were lost and then seemingly forgotten.
"When they offered this scholarship, it’s like they're still remembering," Garcia said. "I want them to remember. Because I have more kids that are going to the high school. And I want my kids to know: They loved their brothers there."
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