Hundreds of people gathered at St. Joseph the Worker Church on Friday to mourn the death of 15-year-old Berkeley High School sophomore Alberto Salvador Villareal-Morales.
Many in the audience at the Addison Street church were students from Berkeley High School.
“I thought that it was a good outpouring of care,” said Principal Jim Slemp. “I felt inspired, because there were a group of Salvador’s friends who collected $3,000. Students were giving so much money. Many at the funeral may have known who he was, but were not necessarily friends with him. But they came there to honor Salvador and support each other ... to make a statement against violence.”
Salvador was killed the night of Jan. 14 as he stood on the 2600 block of East 15th Street in Oakland. Police reported that he was killed by gunfire from a passing car. No one has been arrested in connection to the murder.
The 9 a.m. funeral mass began with a viewing of the body in an open casket. Members of the public stood in line to view the body, while family members of Salvador stood around the casket. Screams of pain and sorrow rang out from family members while they paid their last respects to Salvador.
The Rev. George Crespin told the crowded church, “This past Monday was the first Monday that I knew about Salvadore’s death. I looked up in the sky and saw a rainbow, while it was raining. There was no reason for there to be a rainbow. I took it as a sign that Salvadore was okay.”
He also said he had a message for the many young people in the audience.
“I know that this hits you harder than the rest of us,” Crespin said. “You walk the streets and you know what happens. You have to watch your back. You know how it feels to be put down. We in the community, in many ways, have failed you. I’m hoping that we can say, ‘We can make it better for you.’ We all need to work together to do that. I think the greatest thing we can do for Salvador is to change those things which we have some control over. We can all do something and I think that is what Salvador is asking us. Please do something.”
Rosalinda Morales, 32, the mother of Salvador, gave a speech to the audience in Spanish which Crespin translated into English. She said that she wanted people to honor her son’s name and his memory by trying to ensure that no other mother finds herself in her situation.
After the service, Morales told this reporter more about Salvador.
“He was always so lovely,” recalled Morales.” He always said, ‘Mom. I love you.’ ... He was always helping people. He helped me a lot. He was my oldest son.”
She said that before Salvador’s death, she expressed many concerns to Slemp and other school officials.
“Many things need to be changed,” she said, summarizing the concerns she had told to the school administrators. “A lot of teenagers don’t have any manners and never even say ‘Thank you’ anymore. They need to be more respectful and take their education more seriously. This is all part of the problem. The principal told me, ‘We can’t change that.’ We leave this to the teachers, but education starts at the home. People are always blaming the teachers.”
Morales said she believed the Berkeley community had a role to play in preventing future deaths of teenagers, “The more we organize today, the less blood is shed tomorrow.”
“I think it’s really sad that he died,” said Rene Warren, 16, a friend of Salvador’s. “He liked having fun and hanging out. He had a lot of friends. I actually saw him on Friday, the day before he died. He was eating off-campus lunch on Shattuck. I’m not going to be able to see him anymore.”
Salvador was a tenth-grader at Berkeley High and was involved in many extracurricular activities. He was a member of Huaxtec, which is a Latino youth leadership group. And he was also a member of the grassroots organization called TOJIL, which helps better the schools and education.
Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington adjourned last week’s council meeting in Salvador’s memory.
Police are offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of Salvador’s killer. Anyone with information can call the Oakland homicide unit at 238-3821.
Contributions to help with the funeral costs may be made to Rosalinda Morales, 2207 Bonar St., Apt. G, Berkeley, CA 94702.