With a crowd gathered below, a sea of balloons made its way into the Waco sky Saturday above Oakwood Cemetery where Daylen Anthony Cervantez is buried.
A year earlier, the 19-year-old was fatally shot in Waco, and his family and friends are left still wondering what led to his death.
“I never in my life thought we would be in this situation,” sister-in-law Alexandria Cervantez said. “You hear about people in Waco who have unsolved murders and ‘wow, that’s crazy,’ and then it’s you, you are dealing with it. … someone killed this little boy who was barely starting out his life and they are still out there.”
Cervantez was shot in the wee hours of Nov. 20, 2020, outside Mr. Magoo’s, 4601 Hodde Drive, and died later that day in a local hospital. Police reported at the time that potential witnesses at the bar were unwilling to talk.
Alexandria Cervantez remembers her husband getting the call from a friend telling him his brother had been shot and was being taken to the hospital. By about 4 a.m., she got a text message from her husband letting her know Daylen did not make it.
“I had to call their mother, and that was a lot. I called their older brothers,” Alexandria Cervantez said. “It was a rollercoaster and it was really hard for us.”
A year later, the continuous silence from witnesses has been heartbreaking for the family.
“We are still in shock and I feel like they are failing him, they are literally failing him” Alexandria Cervantez said, tears filling her eyes. “He doesn’t have his voice, he is dead, he is in the ground. It sucks because you would think people would come forward, because out of my heart I would do that, I would come forward for others. But you learn that not everybody is you. It’s a cruel world that we live in.”
Alexandria Cervantez, who knew Daylen, or DLo as he was lovingly called, since he was 11 years old, said the family has heard multiple versions of what happened, but they do not add up.
“One thing I heard was that Daylen was there to pick up a friend who was too drunk to drive,” she said. “We’ve heard different stories, but I truly believe he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Navigating different versions of what might have happened and the lack of helpful information has been hard on the family, said Alexandria Cervantez.
“No one is talking about, not even the people that were there,” Alexandria Cervantez said. “Everybody is telling us all these things but in reality what I am hearing could be incorrect, we have no clue but from what I understand the cameras weren’t working that night so there isn’t camera evidence.”
The Waco Police Department has one other open criminal homicide case from last year, out of 17 total. Spokesperson Cierra Shipley said 14 of last year’s cases were closed by arrest, and one was ruled self-defense. The other open case is the shooting death of Keith Barrier Sr., 38, who died on Aug. 12 at a local hospital after he was found lying on North 11th Street, suffering from a gunshot in his upper hip.
Waco has seen 15 criminal homicides so far this year, six of which remain under investigation, Shipley said.
The cases remain open until they are solved, but when new information dries up, they can effectively be at a standstill, she said.
“That is a big problem in all of our murders, where these murders happen with a lot of witnesses around but a lot of times they are afraid to come forward and give information that would lead to an arrest,” Shipley said.
It often boils down to lack of cooperation from eye witnesses, she said.
“We don’t know who to talk to besides family members sometimes,” Shipley said.
Alexandria Cervantez said she does not understand the lack of witnesses in Daylen’s case.
“It’s the eyewitnesses we need,” she said. “That is why it is taking so long. I don’t understand how there are so many people at a bar and no one sees anything, at the most popular bar in town after a certain hour, but I guess that is just Waco sometimes. It’s sad.”
Daylen Cervantez’s family is in regular communication with the detective who is running the case, often on a weekly basis.
“The detective and I talk and he tells me it is basically at a standstill, there are no leads, no one is talking,” Alexandria Cervantez said. “So they don’t even know. But the detective tells me he isn’t going to stop until it’s completed.”
Multiple investigators go back and review open cases, Shipley said.
“We try to get multiple eyes on the case to try to find new information and see if there was anything that was missed,” Shipley said.
Alexandria Cervantez emphasized that the police department and the detective had been helpful to the family during this time and she understands they are working hard to try to find information.
The Cervantez family hopes someone can come forward and provide information to the Waco Police Department that could lead to an arrest.
To help alleviate the fear that any potential witnesses might have, Shipley said they can provide information through Crimestoppers and remain completely anonymous throughout the whole process.
“A lot of times witnesses are scared to come forward because they don’t know what might happen to them,” Shipley said.
Information can be provided through Crimestoppers by calling 254-753-4357 or visiting wacocrimestoppers.org. Correct tips can lead to a reward of up to $2,000.
“It can make a difference,” Alexandria Cervantez said. “$2,000 can be a lot for someone who was there and saw something.”
She said she believes her family will get justice.
“At the end of the day you lie in the bed you make,” Alexandria Cervantez said. “You do something bad and it comes back to you. I don’t really know when it is going to happen but I know that it is going to happen one day.”
She said until that day comes, she will continue to advocate for her late brother-in-law so no one forgets his name, regardless of how long it takes.
“I would do it in a heartbeat, a million times again, I have to do it for him,” Alexandria Cervantez said. “I have to keep my faith in God.”