Rafael “Ralphie” Farias’ heart carries many images of his son, Matthew:
The smiling kid who ran to him each morning for a hug. The boy who once blurted that he was going to play soccer because he was “too good for basketball.” The 9-year-old called “my favorite” by teachers at Hoover Elementary School.
But now there is another image — a child with curly brown hair in the arms of his mother, killed Wednesday during a shooting rampage in Orange, California.
As police search for a motive and family members wrestle with grief, Farias said he’ll never understand why the gunman aimed at a child.
“I’m so shocked. I’ve never met this person, animal,” Farias said, crying. “Innocent people did not deserve to die. I’m here with my pain … He was my only son, my life.”
Matthew Farias was among four people killed inside Unified Homes, a mobile-home broker. The other dead were identified by the Orange Police Department as Luis Tovar, 50; Leticia Solis Guzman, 58; and Jenevieve Raygoza, 28. Tovar owned the business.
Matthew’s mother, Unified Homes employee Blanca Tamayo, was wounded but survived. Farias said she was cradling their boy when both were shot.
“My angel, he saved his mom from dying,” Farias added. “He took the bullets for her.”
The suspect, a 44-year-old trucking company owner was wounded by police during a gun battle at the business and now faces four counts of murder as well as three of attempted murder.
Authorities said the assailant locked gates outside the office building to prevent victims from escaping. Police have not disclosed a motive for the rampage, but said they believe the gunman had some connection to the business and the assault was not random.
Rafael Farias said his child was always joyful, a leader in sports and the classroom. In a Facebook post he wrote, “RIP my lovely son. I miss you a lot already. I will fight hard for JUSTICE for you son!!”
Families of those shot shared other social media messages and launched GoFundMe pages for donations.
“My heart is heavy as I try to grasp and accept what has happened,” wrote Thalia Tovar, daughter of the Unified Homes owner. “Please keep all of us affected in your prayers, including our loved one (Tamayo) who is still fighting for her life in critical condition.”
Another GoFundMe page, on behalf of the Raygoza family, notes that “Gen” is survived by two young sons, as well as husband, Armando Raygoza.
“To lose your mother at the ages of 4 and 8 is without description, and to lose her in this senseless way will never be a closed story for these wonderful little boys,” wrote brother-in-law Alberto Raygoza.
He added that the children love Easter egg hunts, adding, “We will be giving the boys the Easter that Gen had planned for them as a way to honor her life.”
As of Saturday afternoon, the accounts had received more than 1,750 contributions totaling nearly $100,000.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Orange, California, shooting rampage takes 9-year-old boy from dad