The mentor of 19-year-old John Burton says that he was a people-pleaser who was always willing to lend a helping hand.
“John Burton was a very good young man. Everybody liked John and I think that this is quite a tragedy,” said Taj Matthews, who has mentored many at-risk youngsters on the east side of San Antonio.
Burton was found by a passerby late Monday, shot and left to die on a dark, rainy street corner in the 200 block of Upland.
Police say that Burton was shot in the chest and the hand and was already dead when first responders arrived. Investigators say that they found shell casings in the street from at least two different weapons.
Sitting in the park where Burton loved to play when he was growing up, Matthews says that the youngster he invested time in was a bright light who had a tough upbringing.
“He was raised by his grandmother, who is a beautiful lady who did everything she could to provide him the things that he needed. But he wanted a strong parental relationship and he longed for it and he couldn't get it," Matthews noted.
Matthews also said that this is a loss, not just for one family but for the community.
Expressing anger and frustration at losing so many young people to gun violence, Matthews said, “To leave him on the street like that, in the rain, it was cold-hearted and we are seeing a lot of that kind of behavior. And so I'm pushing SAPD, I'm putting pressure on them to find these thugs, and they need to go.”
Matthews said that he hopes anyone with information about what happened shares it with investigators.
“They don't need to have sympathy for them because they didn't have any for this young man. This is very senseless. This is just another, and we've had so many recently that have been shot and killed and what's the accomplishment once you've done it? It does make you angry, and people should not have to live like that,” Matthews said.
Burton's family declined KENS 5's request for an interview, but while visitors came to pay their respects, they sat in their living room and talked about the senseless death and said that they know who killed him.
San Antonio Police Department records confirm that on September 9, police were called to the family home for a shooting.
On his Facebook page, in one of his very last posts, Burton said that he escaped death that night when many shots were fired at him as the gunman missed.
The family said that, on Monday, the gunman came after Burton again. And this time, the bullets found their mark.
Matthews said that he fears more bloodshed now as friends may try to seek revenge for the popular teen who loved to make people laugh and flirt with all the girls.
“There is never enough revenge for when a person dies. I don't care how many people you kill. You're never going to be able to bring that person back, and you destroy another family,” Matthews said.
Because he knows of other murder cases where gunmen have escaped punishment, he hopes someone will do the right thing and speak up on Burton’s behalf.
“I want justice for John. I've seen several others get away with it, so I want justice for this kid. He didn't deserve to be shot down in the street like that,” Matthews said. “This thing about not snitching? That's the most ignorant thing I've ever heard in my life. They say ‘don't snitch.’ So I'm going to let somebody walk after they committed murder?”
Matthews also noted that he is aware of a march for peace planned for east side streets on Saturday morning, but said that it will take much more to bring change to the area. Matthews says that ministers, community members, grieving mothers, and more must come together.
Matthews says that the east side has its challenges, but it is a strong, vibrant community with many people working for positive change.
“How can we bring all these folks together? That's the challenge we must find the answer for,” Matthews said.
Police say that the investigation continues and no arrests have been made.