SAN JOSE >> For 21 days and nights, Manny Huizar’s family kept vigil outside the Willow Glen Safeway, sharing memories of the beloved 24-year-old stock clerk who was gunned down in the liquor aisle during a deadly late-night shoplifting in June. They also hoped that San Jose police searching for the killer would see the love and not give up finding a suspect.
On Thursday, police officers called the Huizar family with the news: Two and a half months after Manny died on the store’s linoleum floor in a co-worker’s arms, they had arrested a primary suspect and an alleged accomplice.
“I want to celebrate. It’s actually good news,” Manny’s eldest brother, Guillermo, said Thursday. “For my brother’s case to be solved, it means a lot. But at the same time, that’s not going to bring my brother back.”
The killing of Huizar, a dedicated stock clerk who apparently stepped in during an attempted shoplifting at about 3 a.m. June 5, renewed frustrations over brazen theft in grocery and drug stores.
Authorities did not explain how they found the suspects. Security cameras were everywhere in the store and the parking lot, and family members say the store has footage of the killing.
Both suspects are from San Jose and currently in jail custody. Tevita Tuakalau, the 18-year-old shooting suspect, was arrested in the Salt Lake City area last week by local authorities and the U.S. Marshals Service and was booked into jail there. He is being held without bail and is awaiting extradition to San Jose.
On Wednesday, police arrested 19-year-old Jacob Parrilla in San Jose on suspicion of conspiracy in connection with the shooting. He is being held without bail at Santa Clara County’s main jail. His precise alleged role has not been disclosed by police, and court records show he had not been charged as of Thursday.
Huizar’s death shook the local community and devastated his family, who described him as the youngest of four brothers and a sister, a talkative and generous man who at 6-foot-2 was gentle and bighearted.
He was also described as someone who dutifully tried to intervene with shoplifters, such as when someone tried to leave the store with a cart full of groceries without paying — a habit that had prompted some concerned co-workers to warn him of the risks that could incur.
Manny’s mother, Marisela Cornejo, said she is relieved that police have made arrests in the case.
“I believe in God and I believe in karma — that everything you do will come back to you,” she said.
The three-week vigil that ended the day they buried her son helped her grieve, Cornejo said, recalling how multiple Safeway customers told her how friendly her son was and how he helped carry their groceries to the car. She said she feels the loss much more deeply now that the flowers, photo boards and the angel with Christmas lights that someone erected on the sidewalk are long gone.
She added that she keeps her son’s photo on her nightstand, and every morning before she goes to work as a caregiver she talks to him.
“It’s hard for me, just trying to control myself,” she said in an interview Thursday. “I just told him I’m OK, I love you, and I know you are in a better place. Please don’t worry about me. But if you see me cry, it’s because I’m still missing you.”
Anyone with information about the June 5 homicide can contact Homicide Detective Jennifer Valosek at 408-277-5283 or by email at email@example.com. Tips also can be left with Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers at 408-947-7867 or at svcrimestoppers.org.