16-year-old slain in National City remembers being a light to friends and family

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Friends and family gathered Monday night in Chula Vista to mourn the death of a 16-year-old girl, one of two teenagers shot while standing outside a Halloween party at the late last month in National City.

Despite the rain and cold, more than 50 people attended the vigil held outside Bonita Vista High School, where Gillian Aguilera was an 11th grader. Many have described Gillian as a “caring” and “compassionate” girl whose life was taken far too soon.

“She was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Diana Del Valle, Gillian’s mother. “I keep asking myself the same question, ‘Why was she there?'”

Gillian and Edwin Barrera, 18, of National City, were each shot on October 27 as they stood with a group of teenagers outside a party on East 17th Street near Palm Avenue, a announced the police. Both were taken to hospital, where they died.

No arrests had been made Monday, National City police said. The case is still under investigation.

“Nobody expected this to happen,” Del Valle said at the vigil. “She just wanted to go out in her costume, and she just wanted to have fun.”

Friends and family gather for a candlelight vigil on Monday to remember the life of 16-year-old Gillian Aguilera, who was shot dead outside a Halloween party.

(Ana Ramirez/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Gillian wasn’t supposed to be at the party that night, according to her mother. The teenager had been cleared to go to another party closer to home, but ended up at the rally in National City.

“You just don’t know what can happen…I know it was a big mistake for her to go there because now she’s not here with us,” the mother said.

Del Valle has lost two children to gun violence in the past two years. Gillian’s older sister, Janessa Del Valle, 19, was shot dead on July 4, 2020, during a fight involving several people in a parking lot in Bonita, police said.

She said Gillian was still struggling with this loss, when her own life was taken away.

“Even though it was hard for us and we’re still struggling every day…she was doing everything she could to get her degree on time and always be there to support her friends,” Del Valle said.

Gillian was someone who enjoyed spending time with her friends, caring for her adopted pets and complimenting others’ outfits as they walked the school hallways, her classmates said during the interview. the vigil.

“She always cared about every single one of you, and she always knew you cared about her,” Ysabella Diaz, 16, said as she addressed the crowd of college students.

Gillian was a positive influence on her close friends and classmates, said Michael Ortiz, her former English teacher. When news of his death reached Bonita Vista, the campus came together to support each other, he said.

“It’s hard to react to things like that, especially because we’re young and she was still young. I just wish she had more time,” said Mharck Cruz, 18, who – as many others at the wake – lit candles and placed them under Gillian’s picture displayed outside the school.

He was wearing jeans he said Gillian gave him. His initials were embroidered on a pocket.

Friends and family gather for a candlelight vigil on Monday to remember the life of 16-year-old Gillian Aguilera.

Friends and family gather for a candlelight vigil on Monday to remember the life of 16-year-old Gillian Aguilera, who was shot dead outside a Halloween party.

(Ana Ramirez/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The news of Gillian’s death was “devastating” for her family, her father Miguel Aguilera said. But he asked the crowd not to focus on the negative, out of respect for his daughter’s memory.

“I just want everyone to celebrate their life. Don’t focus on what those cowards did to him,” Aguilera said. “Just focus on how awesome she was and how she brought light into the room.

GoFundMe pages have been created to help Aguilera and by Barrera families after their death.

Anyone with information or videos of the National City shootings is asked to call police at (619) 336-4457 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at (888) 580-8477.

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