THE BRONX — The devastated family of a 21-year-old Air Force veteran gunned down in The Bronx early Saturday had planned to celebrate Memorial Day weekend on the Intrepid.
Instead, they were left wondering Monday how anyone could be so heartless to take the life of Fabian Gonzalez, a Florida soldier who followed in his mother's footsteps by joining the military and dreamed of being a nurse.
“I’ve had no rest. I’m tired of crying,” said Gonzalez's heartbroken mom, Stephanie Saldana-Sanchez, 40. “He was a loving son. He was funny.”
Gonzalez was out with his cousin and his cousin’s girlfriend in East Tremont on Saturday about 2:30 a.m. when a gunman opened fire, striking Gonzalez in the chest and the cousin in the leg, police said.
Both were rushed to Bronx Lebanon Hospital, where Gonzalez, who was in town for his cousin's baptism, was pronounced dead.
It was unclear what sparked the bloodshed.
“He was one of the most sociable people you’ll ever meet,” said Gonzalez’ step-father, James Sanchez, 41. “Everyone got along with him. He was very entertaining. He’d light up the room.”
Gonzalez, of Kissimmee, Fla., served in the Air Force for about three years, before being honorably discharged in December. His dream was to become a nurse, relatives said.
“I never thought in a million years, I’d be talking about my nephew’s death on Memorial Day,” Gonzalez' distraught aunt, Felicita Saldana-Wilson, 45, said in between sobs Monday at her Throgs Neck home. “This was supposed to be a happy, festive day.”
Saldana-Wilson said Gonzalez spent time his teenage years in Florida, North Carolina and Alabama and joined the military to follow in his family’s footsteps.
“He told me he did it because his mother did it,” Saldana-Wilson said of her sister, Saldana-Sanchez, 40, who served in the Army. “He took it as a challenge. He said, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’”
Police have charged 18-year-old Jordan Agosto with second-degree murder, manslaughter and assault in connection with the shooting.
What Gonzalez’ family saw at Agosto’s arraignment Sunday night disturbed them.
“When I saw the individual walk out, he was a child who sauntered into the courtroom smirking and laughing,” Saldana-Wilson said. “He was a coward and shot my nephew in passing. To come here and have someone kill him and have no remorse has been a nightmare for my family."
Relatives said Gonzalez loved video games, playing soccer, tee ball and practicing Tae Kwon Do and said they are hoping to bury him at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
"My nephew's not in a gang," said Saldana-Wilson. "He was not using drugs. He just wanted to enjoy his family."
Saldana-Wilson said she frequently watches the 6 p.m. news and sees stories on innocent victims being killed. She just never thought it would happen to a relative.
“The void will never be replaced,” she said. “There will never be another Fabian.”