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El Paso community gathers to remember loved one who was violently murdered

EL PASO, Texas -- The community gathered at Sgt. Jesus Robert Vasquez park for a candlelight vigil to honor a man who was murdered in early September. 

Manuel Sanchez Jr. left his home on Sept. 4 to play basketball at that park, but didn’t return home.

His remains and car were found burned days later in a desert area near loop 375 North of Montana on Fort Bliss property. 

Loved ones knew him as Manito, they say some of the things they will remember him for are his contagious laughter and kind heart.

"It was just tragic," said Dominiq Horton, Manuel's friend.

"He didn't deserve to go this way," said Doris Cepeda, Manuel's cousin.

Sanchez's loved ones gathered at the park he loved and the same park where he lost his life.

Candles were lit and prayers were read by loved ones who came to say their farewells.

"He had a contagious laugh. Manito, he made us laugh, everyone back at home. Everybody is speechless we have no words to this and we miss him very much," said Cepeda.

 Sanchez's parents were not in attendance. Family members we spoke with, told us his parents had to leave El Paso to grieve. They returned to Chicago where they were previously living.

"This was his spot this is the place where he loved to come this is one of the attractions that drove his family to come and buy a house here in the first place so that breaks my heart," said Cepeda.

Sanchez left his home to play basketball with friends on September 4, he was shot before he made it to the courts, according to investigators. 

Sanchez's friends were at the park and believe they heard the shot that killed him

"When the shots went off like it was just one shot and we thought it was a firework at first," said Horton. "We saw a guy run all the way over there and he hoped a fence we all started freaking out and we called the cops, we went to a different park and then we realized that that was Manuel."

"It was just sad seeing his life get taken away like that and we were just there I just kinda wish we could've done something more," said Horton.

"It breaks my heart that he has to come here just like I came here but for him to take his last breaths here it's hard," said Cepeda.

The family is making funeral arrangements in Chicago. They have set up a GoFundMe account to help cover expenses.

You can click here to visit the page.

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Sarah Coria

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