National City

‘He Lit Up the Room With His Big Smile': Family of 16-Year-Old Shot in National City

Damien Estrada had just gotten off the bus and was walking home when he was shot in the head

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The family of Damien Estrada, 16, have identified him to NBC 7 as the teen who was shot in the head last week in National City. Damien’s mother Rosa Rodriguez, said her son is fighting for his life in the hospital.

Rodriguez said her son had just gotten off the bus and was walking home when he was shot in the head.

"He had a contagious smile," said Rodriguez about her son. "He was really warm-hearted and everywhere he went he lit up the room with his big smile."

Rodriguez said her son had attended his first day back at Sweetwater High School on Wednesday just hours before the shooting.

National City police said around 9 p.m., Damien was walking along Euclid Avenue and East 16th Street when he was approached by a group that chased him down and fired at him, with a bullet striking his head.

"It's certainly a concern and so we're investigating and following up all the leads," said Jose Tellez, Chief of Police for the National City Police Department.

Chief Tellez met with NBC 7 to discuss violent crime in the city, sharing how it is common across the country to see spikes in crime during the summer months. Chief Tellez said the most committed crimes in National City are typically domestic violence, aggravated assault and simple assault. Their homicide rate is low, averaging between two to four a year, he added. That's a drop in what the city used to see 15 or 20 years ago.

"Regardless of the homicide rate, it's tragedy," said Chief Tellez. "Because that is a family that has lost a family member, and that's where I think our investigators really take that to heart."

Chief Tellez said he’s committed to keeping the city safe and one way he does that is by tackling access to guns.

"Guns are unfortunately being used by criminals of all ages and that's certainly concerning for us as a county. Certainly here in National City we see that," he said.

Damien’s mom said their family and friends do not know who targeted her son. She’s heartbroken as her son’s dreams have been stalled.

"He had just done an assignment [at school] basically telling the teachers about himself and he had mentioned that he wanted to do construction and start a family once he got out of high school," his mom shared.

According to Damien’s family, he is hospitalized at UC San Diego Hillcrest where he remains in a coma on life support.

"All we have been asking for is just prayers, for people to pray for my son," she said.

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