On the first day of the new year, Francisco de Asis Gutiérrez Álvarez took an early morning walk on his day off from a restaurant job. He never made it home.
“He was just waiting for the light to turn green so he could cross, and then all of a sudden death overcame him,” his brother, Orlin Gutiérrez, explained on a Spanish-language radio show called “Ventana a la Comunidad” (“A Window on the Community”).
Gutiérrez, whom friends called Brayan, was standing on the corner of 21st Street and South Van Ness Avenue when a white Toyota struck him. He died instantly, as did the passenger in the car that hit him, Silvia Patricia Tun Cun.
Minutes before, police officers had attempted to make a traffic stop after a suspect, identified as 19-year-old David Morales, allegedly shot at three pedestrians near Valencia Gardens on 14th and Guerrero streets. Morales fled from police, driving at high speeds on South Van Ness Avenue. He ran a red light and hit the white Toyota, causing the vehicle to hit Gutiérrez and kill him.
At a two-day funeral last week, more than 100 people gathered to remember the 26-year-old Honduran native at Driscoll’s Serra Mortuary on Valencia and 26th streets.
Gutiérrez’s friends brought large white shirts with his picture printed over a blue background and the words “Te recordaremos siempre” (“We will remember you forever”).
Another image of him, printed on glossy photo paper, hung above his coffin. Two of Gutiérrez’s nephews pointed to the picture and repeated, “Ese es mi tío” (“That’s my uncle”).
“I am thankful to see my son had friends. It makes me strong,” said his mother, Vilma Álvarez, as she stood next to his coffin during the viewing.
“I come from a humble, poor family and I thank you for coming and leaving whatever you were doing to be with us,” she said. “This country is tough. I know you have made sacrifices to come here.”
Gutiérrez’s sister, Griselda, who worked with him at a restaurant in the California Academy of Sciences, also expressed her gratitude as friends and family donated money to help raise the $15,000 needed to send his body back home to Marcovia, in Choluteca, Honduras.
“Thanks to God his friends have shown support and so we as a family are thankful,” she said.
Francisco Gutiérrez came to the United States in 2005. Although his mother was strapped financially, she saved the $8,000 needed to bring him with her. She hoped that he would get a job and help support his family. That’s exactly what he did.
Whatever the job offer, Gutiérrez accepted it. He worked as a painter, a janitor, a server and a food preparer, Griselda Gutiérrez said.
The large family lived together in a house on Allison Street in the Outer Mission.
On New Year’s Eve, Gutiérrez went to Los Catrachos Hondureños restaurant on Mission Street near Cotter Street. Griselda Gutiérrez saw her brother for the last time before he left the house.
“I saw him looking very handsome on the 31st. And then I never saw him alive again,” she said.
“It’s not going to be easy to work in a place where I used to work with him.”
The morning of Jan. 1, Gutiérrez talked on the phone and text-messaged Yolany García, his ex-girlfriend.
“He asked me if I had made tamales because he wanted some of the ones I had cooked,” García said. “He loved tamales but I didn’t make any because I had to work the next day.”
She hadn’t seen him in eight months, but she had good memories of their time together.
“We shared very beautiful times and he really cared for my daughter. His family and his mom have loved me very much. And even though we were separated, he has left a hole in my heart.”
García’s daughter, Sysy, said he was like a father to her.
Outside the viewing room at the funeral home, two small tables were set up. One held pictures of a smiling Francisco Gutiérrez and the other his favorite foods – pan dulce, coffee, and pork and hen tamales.