MONTE VISTA — Almost 50 people gathered Sunday evening, Aug. 28, at Fullenwider Park for a candlelight vigil for 14-year-old Aaliyah Salazar, who died from a gunshot wound on Aug. 7.
“She shouldn’t be gone," her friend Kayla Martinez said with tears in her eyes. “None of us really knows what happened, but like we all know she should still be here. This is so hard, but we won’t forget her. She’s our angel now.”
On Aug. 7, at about 3:30 p.m., Monte Vista Police Department officers were notified of a shooting in the 300 block of Monroe Street in Monte Vista.
When officers arrived, they found Aaliyah, who had been shot, MVPD reported. Emergency medical services personnel arrived, and Salazar was pronounced deceased.
According to published reports, based on court documents, Aaliyah was shot in the head with a Glock 19-9mm while making TikTok videos.
On Aug. 11, after an investigation, reviewing evidence and conducting interviews, detectives with the Monte Vista Police Department established probable cause that led to arrest warrants for three people.
Two juvenile females were arrested on suspicion of reckless manslaughter and possession of a handgun by juveniles, MVPD reported.
Emiliano Vargas, 21, Monte Vista, who was the owner of the gun, was also arrested on suspicion of secure firearm storage required and unlawfully providing or permitting a juvenile to possess a handgun, MVPD reported. He was booked into the Rio Grande County Jail.
Aaliyah lived with her grandfather Gary Salazar, who she lovingly called “DADA.”
According to her grandfather, Aaliyah was a proud mommy to three dogs, one cat, and a turtle.
“Even your pets know that something is wrong, and they keep watching the back door, hoping that it will open, and it will be you coming home,” Gary Salazar said at the vigil.
The crowd gathered closer as he spoke — tears in his eyes and his voice breaking with emotion — to his granddaughter at the service.
“Aaliyah, I hope you are enjoying your new life with our Father and Savior,” Gary Salazar said. “Just know that one day will come, and I will be with you at your side again. Until then, may our hearts hold your spirit, and I miss you more and more each day. My love, nothing compares to you being gone, love your DADA.”
Classmates of the deceased teenager stood around three big photos of Aaliyah, hugging, and crying as they looked at the pictures, before placing their candles at the base of the pictures.
Aaliyah’s mother, Amanda Sanchez, said, “I just miss her so much.”
Ray and Janice Medina, Aaliyah’s aunt and uncle said, “Our beautiful Aaliyah, we will never understand why, but all our family will fight for your justice. With God’s help, we pray your death does not go unanswered. With his guidance and light, the truth will come out. It hurts to see your ‘DADA’ so sad; he misses you so much. Watch over him hija, (daughter in Spanish) and everyone who loved you. One day we will all see you again, until then we love and miss you.”
Best friend Sienna Duran said Aaliyah was looking forward to her Quinceanera.
“Aaliyah and I became really good friends last year, when times got tough on either one of us, we were always there for each other,” Duran said. “She was so excited about her Quinceanera that was coming up, but unfortunately that got taken away from her. She already had a beautiful blue dress for it in mind, and she couldn't wait for her 15th birthday to come, too. She absolutely loved her DADA. They used to do everything together, like camping and fishing and going to church. Aaliyah had such a beautiful kind heart. I feel so sad that her life was cut short. I miss her more than anything.”