Two of Gabriela Reyes-Dominguez's sons spoke of their mother's love and compassion for everyone who came into her life.
Once, when he was about 14, Jesus Camarillo-Reyes asked his mom why she gave money to people who claimed to be homeless.
She told him she’d rather give money and get scammed by someone who didn’t really need it than not give money to someone capable of asking for help. Besides, she said, you never know the impact a little money or a little kindness could have on someone’s life.
The lesson: “Your heart should be open, to give compassion, to give love, to everyone who comes into your life,” Camarillo-Reyes, now 30, said of his mother, Gabriela “Gaby” Reyes-Dominguez.
A week after Reyes-Dominguez was killed by a stray bullet allegedly fired by a 17-year-old gang member, Camarillo-Reyes, his younger brother Gabriel, their father and uncle sat before a row of cameras at the Burien library Thursday and remembered the woman who went out of her way to listen without judgment and to offer help to anyone who asked it.
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Reyes-Dominguez’s loved ones didn’t answer questions from the media, but they were accompanied by members of the Latino Civic Alliance, a statewide nonprofit advocacy and civic-engagement organization. Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta, who attended the news conference, is the alliance’s vice chairman.
“I saw her help out a lot of kids,” Jesus Camarillo-Reyes said. At a recent candlelight vigil to honor his mother’s memory, he said “a number of people came up to me and said, ‘Your mom saved me.’ ”
Gabriel Camarillo-Reyes, 28, said: “My mom was very loved … Her door was never locked, always open, for anyone who needed help. She never gave up on people.”
A GoFundMe campaign started last week to help her family with funeral and other expenses has already exceeded the campaign’s $20,000 goal.
“It’s scary what’s happening in the community,” Jesus Camarillo-Reyes said, referencing the violent gang war police say is to blame for the death of Reyes-Dominguez. She was shot Sept. 20 when a bullet pierced the window next to her as she sat at the front counter of the Burien chiropractic clinic where she had worked for 18 years.
Because of Reyes-Dominguez’s killing, Burien police have stepped up emphasis patrols in the city, both to discourage retaliatory shootings and to help make rattled residents feel a little safer, Matta said.
Two 17-year-olds were arrested within hours of the fatal shooting, and a third 17-year-old was arrested this week, accused of rendering criminal assistance by hiding the 9 mm handgun police say was used in the shooting.
Matta supports King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht’s efforts to start up a regional gang task force with law-enforcement agencies across South King County, but said youth and gang violence is a statewide issue affecting communities on both sides of the Cascade Mountain range.
“We’re asking the governor to speak up about gang and gun violence in the state. Burien is not unique,” Matta said.
Nina Martinez, chairwoman of the Latino Civic Alliance, said her organization has been involved in creating a statewide task force on youth-on-youth violence that will include parents, mental-health counselors, police, prosecutors and others to come up with a plan to create – and find funding for – programs to steer kids away from the gang life while also providing wrap-around services to struggling families.
When kids are out of control, parents often don’t know what to do and “they’re afraid if they call for help, their children will be locked up for good,” Martinez said. “I think there’s a big fear factor in our communities.”
Matta, a patient at the clinic where Reyes-Dominguez worked, said he had known her for 20 years. Their sons were in wrestling together and his children’s mother volunteered as an English-Spanish translator, just as Reyes-Dominguez did.
“If their mom was alive, she would’ve forgiven the two individuals that shot her … Their mom was all about helping misguided youth,” Matta said.
The mayor also briefly knew Elizabeth Juarez, a 13-year-old Sylvester Middle School student and suspected gang member who was fatally shot in March along with a 19-year-old woman. They too were victims of the same gang war that six months later, claimed Reyes-Dominguez’s life, police say.
Matta took office on Jan. 22 and met Juarez the next day: “They were running around the library and I said, ‘Stop running around! The mayor’s telling you to stop running around!’ ” he recalled.
He said Juarez told him, “You’re not the mayor. You’re Latino.”
“A couple months later, she was murdered,” said Matta, who later learned Juarez had bragged to her friends about meeting him and gushed about having a Latino leading the city.
Since Juarez’s death, Matta has met monthly with about 100 parents whose children attend Sylvester Middle School. Last month, he said Burien’s City Council hired a human-services manager whose job will be to find funding and support for intervention work with youth and families.
Earlier this week, the council gave the city manager a mandate to develop strategies for providing services and enforcement to combat gang violence, Matta said.
“We will not tolerate gang and gun violence in Burien,” said the mayor. “There is no life in being in a gang. The only life you’ll find is in a cemetery or a prison.”