SAN ANTONIO — Anja Contreras planned on coming to San Antonio on Tuesday to celebrate her son, Asante Contreras. He was scheduled to take the final test needed to become a paramedic -- a lifelong goal.
"I told him I would sit in the parking lot while he was inside testing and send positive vibes and energy," Anja Contreras recalled of one of her last conversations with her son. "I said, 'I'll sit in a parking lot and read my book. And when you come out, we'll go celebrate.'"
Those plans were destroyed Monday morning, when Anja Contreras awoke to Del Rio police at her front door.
"And then I knew something bad was going to happen," Anja Contreras said. "(The officer) told me that there had been an accident -- a car accident. And I thought maybe (Asante) was hurt, and I said, 'Where is he?'"
Officers told her her son was killed in a head-on crash. Anja Contreras said she tried to call her son in disbelief of the news and when he didn't answer, she knew the worst had happened.
Police identified the driver who hit Asante Contreras as Joseph Woolard, a fugitive wanted after violating conditions of release stemming from a March 2019 incident in which he's alleged to have shot at deputies.
Police said Woolard attempted to go the wrong way up I-35, then went northbound on 410 to the I-35 flyover exit, still driving the wrong way, when he crashed into Asante Contreras. Anja Contreras said her son was less than two miles from home before the deadly crash.
"I know that if (Woolard) hadn't been out on bond, my son would've graduated and he’d be wearing his uniform right now," Anja Contreras said. "Instead, he's going to be buried in it.”
Following the March 2019 chase-turned-shootout with Woolard, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar called Woolard a "career criminal." Records show Woolard had a warrant issued for his arrest in February after allegedly cutting off his GPS monitor.
"(Asante) had the most brilliant future ahead of him that he could possibly imagine, he would have saved (Woolard's) life had he been able to, and instead he took my son's life," Anja Contreras said. "I hope (Woolard) never gets to hurt anybody else."
Asante Contreras' high school EMT teacher Nicholas Velasquez said the same of Asante's selfless character.
“To him, Asante may be no one, just someone he hit," Velasquez hit. "But to the rest of us, he’s someone we loved. I really want him to understand what he took from us and who he took from us. And I hope that that truly weighs on him. And truly, really settles in his heart."
Thousands of dollars have been raised to cover costs of Asante Contreras' funeral. Dozens of tributes have also poured in, remembering the 20-year-old as a brilliant, dignified man.
"He was just honestly a ray of sunshine," Velasquez said. "He was that light for us whenever he needed someone. And I feel that he basically took our light away from us."
Asante Contreras' body is set to be escorted from San Antonio to his hometown of Del Rio by first responders -- some coworkers and others, strangers. A gesture Anja Contreras said her son would be proud of.
"Anytime he saw an ambulance anywhere, he would thump his chest and go, 'Those are my people,'" Anja Contreras said. "He just was so, so proud. He had found his calling. This was it for him.'"