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The youngest survivor of the El Paso, Texas Walmart shooting last August – whose parents were killed shielding him from the gunfire – turned 1 last week, inspiring hundreds to organize a drive-by birthday celebration amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Paul Anchondo was just an infant when his parents, Andre and Jordan Anchondo, protected him from the barrage of bullets that rang out inside the busy Cielo Vista shopping center on Aug. 3, 2019. The couple was among the 23 people killed. Nearly two dozen others were wounded.
Accompanied by his grandfather and uncle, the now 1-year-old Paul Anchondo wore a crown and blue and gold regalia as he waved to the hundreds of people who passed by his home over this past Memorial Day weekend.
“I’m so happy. Today is his first birthday and I think we had to celebrate it, not only because it’s his first birthday but because he survived,” the child’s uncle, Gilberto Luis Anchondo, told KDBC-TV.
“He obviously reminds me of my brother a lot,” he said. “I think they look exactly the same and you have to remember that Andrew was my little baby brother.”
“Andre and Jordan should be here right now taking care of their baby,” the uncle said.
Mass gatherings are discouraged under current social distancing restrictions, but drivers took to their trucks and SUVs with birthday messages for the young boy. Muertos MC, a local motorcycle club, helped organize the festivities, and bikers came out in droves to show their support for the child celebrating the milestone without his mother and father.
“We want him to remember that everybody here in the El Paso area and our community is supporting him, that he’s not by himself,” the child’s grandfather, Gilbert Anchondo, told KTSM.
“It’s out of this world what happened here,” he continued. “The outfit says that he’s a prince but he became the prince of El Paso.”
Muertos MC President Eduardo Prieto, who grew up with the Anchondo family, said he wanted to help make Paul’s birthday special and would continue to show him support in the years to come.
“This is going to be his first birthday and it’s unfortunate that his parents are not going to be here for his first birthday so we want to give him something to look back and show that not only does he have his families support but the support of the community,” Prieto told KTSM.
Prosecutors allege the gunman, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, drove more than 10 hours from his hometown of Allen, near Dallas, to carry out the shooting last summer.
Crusius allegedly surrendered to police, saying “I’m the shooter” just blocks away from the scene. He also told authorities he was targeting Mexicans who frequented the busy Cielo Vista shopping center, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Investigators also uncovered a manifesto published online hours before the shooting that he allegedly wrote “in response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
In addition to state capital murder charges, Crusius in February 2020 was indicted on 90 counts under federal hate crime and firearm laws for his role in the massacre.
Fox News’ Vandana Rambaran contributed to this report.