A small prayer service was held Wednesday morning for Hector Salvador — the 26-year-old man who was shot and killed over the weekend at 16th and Hoff Streets — just 10 hours after his memorial was taken down following a drive-by shooting targeting mourners, according to witnesses.
Salvador was shot early Sunday morning following an altercation in which “a group of people [were] yelling at each other in a verbal argument,” according to police, and a single gunshot rang out, killing Salvador. Neighbors say that Hoff Street alley is often the site of after-hours fights from the many bars in the area, and police have canvassed the area for surveillance footage.
On Tuesday night at 10:15 p.m., witnesses reported shots coming from a small black car toward the memorial site for Salvador, where dozens of friends had been gathering since the shooting on Sunday. Groups of mostly young men stayed for hours at a time, some through the night, sitting on lawn chairs, drinking Coronas, and paying their respects to Salvador.
Hundreds of empty glass bottles and dozens of baseball caps, veladoras (commemorative candles), and bouquets crowded the small tree near the site where Salvador was slain. All had been removed by Wednesday morning.
“They threw away the picture of my son. They threw it all away,” said Maria, Salvador’s mother, as she cried in front of the former memorial site and collapsed into her friend’s arms. Father Richard Smith, an Episcopalian priest from St. John the Evangelist Church around the corner from the site, hugged her as she wept. “They killed him, they killed my son,” she said.
The police said they were not responsible for clearing out the memorial, and someone from Wells Fargo next door said the bank knew nothing of its removal. One employee called its clearance “very disrespectful,” though some said it may have been moved because it grew too large.
The prayer service, attended by more than a dozen friends and family, was mostly religious and did not address the memorial or drive-by shooting. The Catholic archbishop for San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, led the crowd in prayer.
“Loving and merciful God, we entrust our son Hector to your care,” Cordileone started, before recounting the parable of the lost sheep as proof of “how valuable each of us is to God.” Different prayers and rites were offered for the next 20 minutes, before Father Smith addressed the frequency of violence in the Mission District.
“We see too much of this in our neighborhood,” Smith said. “I’ve seen too many moms and dads in tears, and it breaks my heart every time, and it breaks my heart this time.”
By Mission Local’s counting, this is the first gun homicide of the year, not including the police shootings of Matthew Hoffman in January, Amilcar Perez-Lopez in February, and Javier Lopez Garcia at St. Luke’s Hospital last month.
Smith said that Salvador’s death must serve as “a moment for all of us” to be “instruments of peace” in the lives of loved ones. The next person to speak was Salvador’s mother.
“He was my first son,” Maria said, calling his loss a “great hurt” and remarking on her son’s popularity. “He had so many friends, so many amigas y amigos.”
She said her house was “full of people” in the days since Salvador’s death and that she “didn’t know where to put” the many people who had come to support her who were “shocked” by her son’s death. Salvador worked with his uncle as a janitor and lived with his mother in a Florida Street home.
After the service she described a time when Salvador helped a friend, an undocumented immigrant, pay the rent, even though she was worried he was spending money he did not have.
“I’m going to help my friend, he’s my friend,” Salvador told her. “I respected his decision,” she said.
“He gave his life to people, he always helped his friends,” she said. She also fondly remembered his ability as a lady’s man and recalled chiding him for never bringing home a girlfriend. “He was so handsome, my son, but he never brought a girlfriend around. I told him ‘I want to meet them [his romantic interests].’ ”
Ending the ceremony, Maria thanked those who had supported her since the shooting and said “God know what will happen next,” before touching a picture of her son at the memorial, next to a small drawing of the Virgin Mary.
“Gracias a la raza,” she said, thanking her fellow Latinos.