For those closest to twenty-two year old Steve Rodriguez, it was difficult to put into words what the aspiring biologist and computer whiz meant to them.
“I wish you guys knew him. I wish you were close to him so you knew who he really was,” said his twenty-five year old brother Daniel Rodriguez at a candlelight vigil last Thursday.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Vigilia en Memoria del Hombre Matado por la Policía de Monterey Park Related Story: Monterey Park Police Fatally Shoot Man Outside Carl’s Jr. [UPDATED] 
But after Rodriguez was killed by police during a confrontation outside the Carl’s Jr. fast food restaurant near East Los Angeles College on Jan. 23, it seemed easy for many who did not know him to have an opinion.
A YouTube video of his death recorded by a witness circulated on the Internet soon after the incident, prompting many to weigh in on who he was and how he died. As of press time, the video had reached over a million viewers.
Many who watched the video called the ten shots police fired that ultimately killed Rodriguez an example of police brutality and excessive force.
Others such as George, a commenter on EGPNews.com, said Rodriguez, who had prior to facing off with the Monterey Park police smashed in all the windows of the fast food restaurant with a metal pipe, said he was “not a valuable member to society.”
For several days, only friends and family who at first refused interviews with television stations seemed to know differently.
At a vigil held last week at the spot where police shot him, photos, including yearbook pictures, as well as some details about Rodriguez emerged.
Rodriguez, who had just moved to Chino Hills with his family, had spent most of his life in Alhambra and grew up in the area. He attended Garvey Intermediate School in Rosemead.
Friends and family said Rodriguez wanted to transfer from East Los Angeles College to a university to study biology.
An aunt said she had known Rodriguez since he was nine years old, and recalled serving him enchiladas at a family gathering. Another relative called Rodriguez “a happy go lucky person.”
Rodriguez was also a pro with computers, said one friend. “He would help people who would get a virus, get a blue screen. … People would bring their computers and he would bring them back to life,” family friend Alberto Trevino said.
Trevino added that Rodriguez just seemed like your average kid, a “Tom Sawyer kind of kid… a little rambunctious, but that’s normal… maybe some would say he was a little nerdy, nothing wrong with that.”
Daniel Rodriguez said his brother was a fun loving person who would have never hurt anyone. “He had the chance, but he chose not to [hurt anyone at Carl’s Jr.]. There was a reason he was calm when he went and just broke the windows, and didn’t try to rob and hurt anyone,” he said.
Though Rodriguez’s family have shied away from making political statements – they said Rodriguez was not overtly political – the East Los Angeles College students who organized the vigil, and many area residents who attended, said they have had personal experience with excessive force and racial profiling by police.
“With everything [police] do, there are certain stuff like racial profiling, if you look a certain way, they give you a hard time,” said East Los Angeles College student Violet Bueno, 20.
She did not know Rodriguez, but was moved to attend his vigil. “It’s not the first time [police have] done stuff like this. The cops who were involved need to get in trouble for this, not just walk away, nothing,” she said.
In a brief speech to those in attendance at the vigil, Rodriguez’s stricken father, Martin Garcia, still fresh from the loss, managed to let out, “he was the best kid… I have no more words… I’m sorry about this, I cannot stay here,” before breaking down in tears.
UPDATE: A car wash fundraiser for the Rodriguez family will be held Saturday, Feb. 4 from 9am to 4pm at the Carl’s Jr. parking lot.