Hundreds gather to honor memory of slain Reynolds student
Emilio Hoffman, 14, had a social spirit and loved soccer
From a prayer vigil to a candlelight gathering honoring the memory of Reynolds High shooting victim Emilio Hoffman, Tuesday night was marked with emotion in East County.
Hundreds gathered at Portland Baptist Church, located at the border of Portland and Gresham along Southeast 179th Avenue and Main Street, where Senior Pastor Rick Adams said "everybody weeps in the same language."
"We have young people in our church family who attend the school, and many of the school staff members are known to us as we co-labor with them in shaping the lives of young people in this community," Assistant Pastor Brad McFeters wrote in a statement. "Tonight's prayer vigil... is an opportunity for our church family to come together to pray and to draw comfort together in the lord."
Pastors and teachers offered prayers, calling for healing, hope and help in the aftermath of the Tuesday morning shooting. They praised first responders as "some of the finest people they'd met, rolling up their sleeves and lending a hand."
One teacher noted that Arthur Academy was strongly affected by the shooting, as Hoffman's younger siblings attended the school.
In Troutdale, hundreds streamed onto Walt Morey Middle School's basketball field for a candlelight vigil, singing songs such as "Amazing Grace," "Lean on Me" and "You Are My Sunshine."
At the center of the gathering was a table with a framed picture of Hoffman, soccer jerseys, balloons, flowers and a journal to write tributes.
Stipo Susnjara, 18, will be a senior next year at Reynolds High School. He met Emilio Hoffman in early June last year. It was the first day of conditioning camp for the high school's soccer team, and Hoffman was an incoming freshman.
He came up to me and introduced himself, said Susnjara, who plays on the varisty soccer team for Reynolds.
Susnjara said he was surprised by Hoffman's athletic ability.
He said the young man was a friendly person, and that he helped people less skilled than him. As a freshman, Hoffman played as a midfielder on the junior varsity soccer team.
Susnjara said he last saw Hoffman on Monday, the day before the shooting. He was in a rush and Hoffman was walking to catch the bus after school.
The following day, Susnjara was studying for finals and listening to music on his headphones when a teacher interrupted him.
Susnjara took off his headphones, and that's when the voice came over the school's intercom. This is not a drill, he recalls hearing.
Susnjara said he was surprised because nothing like this had ever happened in the two years he had been at the high school.
He said he became scared and worried when he heard police in the hallway, knocking on classroom doors. Then he calmed a little.
They told us to put our hands up over our head and evacuate, Susnjara said. That's when I started getting worried.
As soon as he and other classmates were shuttled outside, Susnjara said he called his mom right away to let her know he was safe.
The students were directed onto the soccer field behind the school. They walked in a single file line with their hands over their heads across the school grounds to the church nearby.
Susnjara said the students were checked out by police.
They were looking for weapons or anything illegal, he said.
Susnjara said he didn't hear any details about the shooter during the evacuation.
Ismail Kljucanin, 16, also plays on the Reynolds varsity soccer team.
He and Hoffman too met at summer conditioning last June.
The last time he saw Hoffman was during soccer conditioning camp two weeks ago.
When he heard the name Emilio as being the victim who was shot and killed by an unidentified gunman Tuesday morning, he knew it was him.
Kljucanin was moved to tears. I was so sad, he said. It just struck home. I knew him, I played with him, I helped him out.
Kljucanin said the general sentiment among students at Reynolds is sorrow.
But he says, We are staying as a family. It's hard but you got to stick together.
Rachel Gherman, 15, and Anna Bogdanets, 13, were friends with Hoffman.
Bogdanets, a seventh-grader, said her older sister, a freshman, was closer with Hoffman, but she had met him twice.
He seemed like a really nice guy, she said.
One time Bogdanets said Hoffman gave her sister his soccer jersey, and the two went to go watch his game.
He's always been nice to us, she said. I feel sorry for his family and friends. We'll be praying for him. I hope he's in a better place now.
The quiet crowd rotated between singing and offering tributes, with sobs sounding throughout the basketball court.
Lifting their candles into the dusk June sky, Reynolds students made a sign with their other hand symbolizing love and Raiders pride.