Twin Cities family honors fallen son with a new effort to curb gun violence

[anvplayer video=”5166617″ station=”998122″]

For Gabe Mendoza’s parents— he was much more than a son.

“He embraced life, he didn’t have time to waste,” his father, Edward declares. “He wanted to live it.”

Mendoza went to college, played football— and had his eye on a potential singing career.

He was also a hero, his parents say, and an inspiration to others.  

“One of the things he would always say is you have one chance to make a mark on the earth, and that we were stronger together,” says Mendoza’s mother Katrina. “Gabriel really wanted to change the world before he left here, and he changed the world for a lot of people he loved. But he was here only twenty-three years with us.”

Last year on Oct. 16th, Mendoza was working security at the Firehouse Restaurant in Uptown.

Police say around 11:45 that Sunday night— officers responded to a report of a shooting there.

The Mendozas say after hearing gunfire out front, their son sprang into action, herding patrons who were in a back alley, trying to get them inside.

“He had on his full gear, he had his bulletproof vest,” Katrina recalls. “Gabriel was outside at some point and was shot in his neck and was able to walk ten feet and he stumbled inside. And while he was doing that, he was still getting people to safety, rushing them in.”

She says arriving paramedics tried to save Mendoza’s life— but that he died inside the restaurant.

The family says so far, there have been no arrests or suspects— or even a motive.

RELATED: Family identifies man shot, killed while working at Uptown Minneapolis business

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to Minneapolis Police about the case.

A spokesperson would only say that the investigation into Mendoza’s death remains open and active.

Katrina notes investigators told her that her son was not a target.

“It’s been almost 20 weeks and we have no leads and no answers,” she says quietly. “What we can do is something. We knew we needed to be Gabe’s voice now that he’s gone.”

Which is why the Mendozas found themselves at the Springhouse Ministry Center, in the city’s Whittier neighborhood.

“That’s where it starts in the church,” Edward Mendoza says. “Everybody gathers there, your family goes there.”

The couple are teaming up with Ward 10 Council Member Aisha Chughtai, launching a series of outreach sessions to address gun violence in the city— and its impact on young people.

“Once the act of violence happens, there’s no undoing it,” Chughtai explains. “But what do we do to prevent it in the future? What are the ways in which we each see a role in making that happen?”

The round table is the first of four planned so far for this year.

The gathering at Springhouse was called ‘Faith Leaders—Fight Back Against Gun Violence.’

The idea is to have faith leaders reach out to families and young people during services.

“You know, if you’re a bad guy, you still go to church sometimes on Sunday,” Edward notes. “That’s where you can reach them, talk to them. Let them know that this is not the path to go. You know, try to start it at that point before they pick up the gun, or even if they did pick up the gun, then change their mind.”

“If you belong to a congregation, going back to your congregation, having those types of conversations about gun violence with youth and adults that are in their lives,” Chughtai adds. “Having those tough conversations, and building a sense of community, accountability of those things.”

The Mendozas say they’re offering a $10,000 reward for information—about their son’s death.

That’s in addition to a $1,000 reward posted by Crimestoppers.

The couple says they’re not naïve— that this will be no easy challenge.

But they say they hope if even one life is saved— that would be a lasting legacy for their son.

“We don’t know what the answer is, but we know we’re not going to be quiet. We know we’re his voice now,” Katrina says. “He would want us to band together and fight the epidemic that’s become the gun violence that’s taken over.”

You can find out more about the Mendoza’s crowd-funding effort by CLICKING HERE.

Information about Crime Stoppers of Minnesota can be found by CLICKING HERE.