Derek “Peachy” Juarez-Lopez was stabbed Tuesday at Westcrest Park in the Highland Park neighborhood in what police and his family believe was a robbery.
Derek “Peachy” Juarez-Lopez was a 15-year-old poet who wrote about steering clear of gangs and the importance of getting an education, his sisters said.
The youngest of four children raised by a single mother, he dreamed of someday being able to buy his mother a house and move the family out of their Arroyo Heights neighborhood in Southwest Seattle.
He was supposed to begin his sophomore year at Chief Sealth International High School on Wednesday.
Juarez-Lopez died Tuesday afternoon during his second surgery at Harborview Medical Center, six hours after he was stabbed in the heart and abdomen by unknown assailants at Westcrest Park, according to his family.
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His older brother had dropped Juarez-Lopez at a friend’s house to celebrate her birthday on the last morning before the start of the school year.
His sister Italia Juarez-Lopez was stuck in traffic in Seattle’s Rainier Valley when she got a call from her younger brother at 9:04 a.m.:
“He said, ‘I just got jumped.’ I heard him running and he said, ‘Italia, they stabbed me, I’m bleeding. Can you please come get me?’ ” she said.
The phone then went silent, 19-year-old Italia Juarez-Lopez said.
She called 911 but didn’t know his exact location. She later learned her brother had flagged down a woman near Sixth Avenue Southwest and Southwest Cambridge Street, and the woman called 911.
Seattle firefighters and medics arrived and took Juarez-Lopez to Harborview Medical Center, police said. Meanwhile, police searched the area near Westcrest Park for a suspect.
Seattle police homicide detectives now believe robbery was the motive for the stabbing, according to an item posted Wednesday on the department’s online blotter. Police provided no new details about the investigation.
After the phone call from her brother, Italia Juarez-Lopez phoned her mother, Veronica Munoz, and the two met in White Center, then followed a helicopter and a “trail of police cars” to the crime scene, Italia Juarez-Lopez said.
“When she (Italia Juarez-Lopez) called me about my son, my heart was like in pieces. He was my baby,” Munoz said.
After talking to homicide detectives at the scene, the two women made their way to Harborview, where they were quickly joined by family and friends.
Juarez-Lopez was unconscious when his mother and siblings were allowed to see him before he was rushed back to the operating room in a failed attempt to stop internal bleeding, the family said.
“His little heart couldn’t take it,” Italia Juarez-Lopez said.
She said her brother’s blue backpack was stolen during the attack.
“It had to have been more than one person,” Italia Juarez-Lopez said of whoever attacked her brother.
In addition to the stab wounds, he suffered a head injury and had scrapes on his face and hands.
His family has no idea why he was targeted.
“I could understand if he had money or was in the gang life but no, that wasn’t the case,” Italia Juarez-Lopez said. “It still feels unreal, to know he’s never coming back.”
The family has had some close calls before: In July 2014, Italia Juarez-Lopez’s head was grazed by a stray bullet as the car she was riding in was fired aton Southwest Roxbury Street in White Center.
A year later, Juarez-Lopez and his oldest sister, Mari Juarez-Lopez, were in a car together when they got caught in the crossfire between shooters in two vehicles as the siblings and a friend pulled out of a gas station in Skyway. A bullet grazed the boy’s right eyebrow and another went through his pant leg, Mari Juarez-Lopez said.
She read her brother’s journal after he died: “He wrote of how gangs and violence take everything from us. He sees his friends live it,” Italia Juarez-Lopez said.
An aunt flew in from California on Tuesday night and friends continued to drop by their home Wednesday to mourn Juarez-Lopez, who was close with his family, particularly his older brother, Karel Juarez-Lopez, 23.
It was Mari Juarez-Lopez, 25, who nicknamed him “Peachy,” because as a baby he was round and chubby like a peach, she said.
She said her brother had a large circle of friends, many of them girls, who he encouraged “to love yourself, respect yourself, be yourself,” Mari Juarez-Lopez said.
Her brother was always respectful and gentlemanly, she said, the kind of kid who would hold open doors and pull out chairs for the women and girls in his life. She thinks he admired women so much because after their father left when he was 2, he saw how hard their mother worked to support the family.
“He was wise beyond his years. He was very mature for his age,” Mari Juarez-Lopez said of her brother, who loved to write, play video games and listen to rap music.
The Juarez-Lopez sisters organized a candlelight vigil Wednesday night.
Police say homicide detectives are pursuing leads and encourage anyone with information on the teen’s death to call 206-233-5000. According to a Seattle Times database, Juarez-Lopez is the youngest homicide victim killed in King County this year.
A gofundme page has been set up to help his family pay for his funeral and medical costs.