HAYWARD — The funeral of Antonio Nunez Jr. began with his mother sobbing over his casket before a silent crowd, her cries the first of many sorrowful sounds in a ceremony honoring the joy of his life and devastation of his death.
Nunez, 16, was fatally shot Dec. 4 outside his East Oakland home in the 9400 block of Sunnyside Street. He was buried Tuesday after a funeral service at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward.
Before the ceremony, Nunez laid in an open casket while his mother cried over him, a crowd of mostly high-school-aged youths looking up from the steps below.
Monsignor Antonio Valdivia opened the ceremony, speaking to a crowd of hundreds that packed the mausoleum and flowed out onto the cemetery grounds.
"We gather today because we see a tree cut down before its time," Valdivia said.
"We remember Saint Anthony, Antonio's namesake and the patron saint of missing things, and of course his prayer: 'Tony, Tony, turn around — something's lost and must be found.' Antonio, now in heaven, like his patron, will help us find our peace as we continue working and moving on."
Nunez's mother read a prayer during the Mass that she'd written in Spanish, her hands shaking as she bit back tears and spoke with such force that the crowd applauded when she finished.
"It was just powerful," Valdivia said. "She said, 'I feel angry in my heart, and what am I supposed to do? But I will keep on living to keep alive the memory of my son. I know that he is with you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.' "
'R.I.P. Fat Ant'
Nicknamed "Chato" by his father and "Fat Ant" by his friends, Nunez was known for an ever-present smile and an outgoing, welcoming personality. He loved taking photos, and dozens of his friends arrived at the service with shirts, sweaters and jackets imprinted with images of him taken during happy times. One teenage boy had "R.I.P. Fat Ant" shaved into the hair on the back of his head.
"He loved everybody. Like, he always made me feel comfortable with me, you know?" said Laisa Saavedra, 23, a friend who said she'd known Nunez about a year. "He made everybody feel welcome. That's why so many people came to the funeral.
"He gave a lot out of him to people," she added. "You didn't even have to know him to know him. It said a lot, just the aura he had. That's what everybody's going to miss. That's what I miss."
Speaking after the ceremony, Valdivia said he was struck by the loving nature of Nunez's family, and said he took comfort knowing the boy "wasn't a youngster who was deprived of parental love, from his mother or his father."
Nunez was also known for his close relationships to his siblings, especially his 15-year-old brother.
"They were buddies all the way," Saavedra said. "Totally inseparable. You'd never see Antonio without his brother right there along with him."
Like the funeral Mass, Nunez's burial was attended by a crowd of more than 200 people. As people began tossing flowers into the grave, one man broke into howling sobs, and men and women throughout the services cried openly for more than an hour.
"It was a dramatic moment when the brother took his Marine white cap off and tossed it into the grave," Valdivia said. "You always want to give somebody who is leaving a remembrance of yourself, and that is the only thing he could come up with for his kid brother."
Police said Nunez had just parked a truck outside his mother's home about 10:45 p.m. the night of the shooting, and sat there for a moment with his 15-year-old brother before multiple gunmen got out of a nearby van, walked to the truck and fired on both boys without speaking.
The two boys had attended a Friday night Mass with their mother and gone to their father's house to do some laundry, police said.
The brother and Nunez's 39-year-old uncle, who was also outside the home at the time, were both shot and are expected to survive.
Police had no suspects in custody as of Tuesday afternoon. Investigators said they believe the shooting was gang-related, though neither Nunez nor his brother were gang members.
"Antonio, I'm told, had hopes of becoming a doctor," Valdivia said. "And he was in that leadership school at Castlemont, which is mostly the students who want to do good for society. Again, a lot of people feel, it's Oakland, what good is Oakland, there's nothing good here. Tony, by his inspiration, gives us faith. He'll guide us.
"As I was leaving the cemetery I bumped into one young kid, and I told him, 'Enjoy your life. Make Antonio proud,' and he said, 'I will.' It was a nice was of summarizing it all."