The heartbroken mother of the 14-year-old boy fatally shot after a high school football scrimmage in Philadelphia recalled the moment she heard gunfire ring out and she held her only child close as he lay dying.
Nicolas Elizalde died Tuesday after a group of five gunmen opened fire at the end of scrimmage at Roxborough High School’s field. Another four boys were injured in the shooting.
Meredith Elizalde said her son Nicolas, who identified as Chicano and Muslim-American, was about to turn 15 next week.
Elizalde recalled how she was waiting in the car to pick up her son after scrimmage, but heard shots ring out and by the time she got to the scene, she found Nicolas bleeding from a wound to his chest.
“I heard the shooting start and I didn’t know where he was, but inside as a mother I knew it. I ran to the shots. I ran to the shots and I couldn’t get him, but I held him and I felt him leave. But I was holding him. He wasn’t alone,” Elizalde said to NBC Philadelphia Thursday.
She said that she touched his face and said, “I love you, I’m here” and recited a Muslim prayer for him.
She described Nicolas as “the best son that anyone could ask for,” who loved animals, the environment, and took part of marches in the name of protecting the environment, abortion rights and gun control.
His mother said Nicolas hated guns, and he wept after hearing about the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two teachers in May.
“He was the most gentle soul that I ever came across in my life. I’ve always said it was like raising Gandhi,” she said.
The shooting unfolded after the scrimmage, involving players from three schools, ended around 4:30 p.m.
Four of the five juveniles shot were part of Roxborough High School's football team and they ranged in age from 14 to 17, Philadelphia police said.
Police said in a press conference Wednesday that surveillance video captured the shooting “in its entirety.”
Footage showed five individuals exit an SUV and release barrage of gunfire.
Four of the five shooters then returned to the SUV, while a fifth continued to pursue one of the shooting victims until he was hit and collapsed on the sidewalk. Then the shooter ran up to the victim, stood over him and kept firing, police said.
“The only thing that stopped this individual from firing is that he apparently had run out of bullets and his slide had locked," Homicide Captain Jason Smith with the Philadelphia Police Department said.
Officials said over 64 cartridge cases were found at the scene.
“Most, if not all, of the perpetrators seem to be juveniles themselves,” police said.
Police said that the suspects were seen waiting for six minutes for the game to end, and waited for this specific group of juveniles to walk out to launch the attack.
Officials shared surveillance video of the suspects, dressed in black and armed, offering a $40,000 reward for information.
The motive is unknown but Smith said, “we do believe that one or two of the individuals within that group were specifically targeted. We don’t believe they were targeted because they were part of the football team."
Smith said he believed Nicolas was not the intended target.
Nicolas lived in Delaware County and attended Walter B. Saul High School, but played football at Roxborough High School in Philadelphia. His family was preparing to move to Roxborough so he could be closer to where he played the sport, Elizalde said.
Now Elizalde is calling upon lawmakers to make changes to stop gun violence in the city.
“I want to tell them to stop just getting up at a podium and saying, ‘Here’s some thoughts and prayers and some useless legislation’ and shut people up. I want the Pennsylvania Legislature to do something, and by that I mean the one side that’s not doing anything,” Elizalde said.
Now the community is mourning, with an emotional candlelit vigil held Thursday in Roxborough for Nicolas.
“There just isn’t a better, more pure human being on Earth, and that’s why God took him,” Elizalde said on her son.