Police have person in custody in Forest Park teen’s death

Steven Galindo Diaz always assured his big sister that he was going to be well known someday.

Either for being an all-star football player or a highly decorated U.S. Marine.

But the happy-go-lucky 13-year-old was shot to death Monday night during a robbery attempt as he helped his sister work on her truck.

Clayton County Police said early Thursday morning a person was in custody in Steven’s slaying, but the hadn’t been named, yet.

“I wanted [Steven] to be known as a big football player or something like that,” his older sister, Samaria Diaz said Wednesday tears streaming from her face. “I never wanted him to be known as the 13-year-old boy who was shot dead.”

Now the family is trying to cope with Steven’s death and raise money for his funeral.

“My dad is trying so hard to be strong, but you can see it in his eyes,” Samaria Diaz, 22, said. “It’s killing him. My mother is in shock. My mother is in shock. Then {Mom} said, ‘we don’t have the money.’”

Members of the community in and around Forest Park are pulling together to help the family bury the teen.

The Chik Fil-A franchise at 4959 Jonesboro Road in Forest Park will host a fundraising drive called “Dollars for Diaz” on Wednesday from 4 to 9 p.m. to serve as a “point of collection” for people wanting to donate, franchise general manager Eric Stallings said.

“And of course, we’ll be donating a portion of our sales,” Stallings said.

A yard sale will be held Saturday starting at 9 a.m., in the neighborhood off Old Dixie Road, where Steven was shot Monday night.

Throughout the day Wednesday, well-wishers brought flowers and donations to the townhomes where a shrine to his memory stands, with photos of the slender teen in an L.A. Dodgers jersey and baseball cap or hugging his sister.

Forest Park Mayor David Lockhart gave the family a potted plant with its condolences.

“My oldest son is about to turn 13,” Lockhart told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That could have been him. This is absolutely senseless.”

Samaria Diaz said her brother didn’t have to die.

Monday night around 10:30 p.m., as she watched Steven put air in the tires of her tricked-out Chevy Silverado pick-up truck, a burgundy SUV pulled up, and two men approached demanding the her jewelry and the keys.

Samaria Diaz’s boyfriend had given her the truck, complete with chrome rims, butterfly doors and a custom royal blue paint job.

One of the men brandished a shotgun, and the other carried a baseball bat.

“I was walking backwards away from the truck taking off the key to give them, and Steven was behind me,” Samaria Diaz said. “I didn’t want to run. If we ran, they’d think we were trying to give them a hard time and shoot us.”

One of the men snatched her necklaces from her neck, and the other unsuccessfully tried to start the truck.

Then one began smashing the truck with the bat as the other raised the shotgun and shot the truck several times.

Steven was hit.

“I gave them everything,” Diaz said. “He didn’t deserve this.”

His older brother, Jose Diaz, was in the house with his girlfriend Dominique Rodriguez, and came outside after hearing the shots.

“He ran up to the car door, but the man pointed the shotgun at him,” Rodriguez said. “He pulled the trigger, but the gun didn’t fire. Then they drove away.”

Samaria Diaz is angry with reports that the shooting was somehow gang-related and said her family had never seen the men before Monday night.

“This was a robbery … plain and simple,” she said. “Steven was never involved with any gangs. He stayed to himself. He wanted to be in the military.”

His cousin, Gloria Rodriguez, said Steven was eager to join the ROTC when he got to high school and was getting ready for football as an 8th-grader at Babb Middle School.

“He was supposed to go to football practice the next day,” she said.

Veiza Banegas, Steven’s classmate at Moore Elementary School, said he was friendly to everyone he met.

“He was always smiling,” she said. “He loved making people laugh.”

Now his family can only remember his laughter, believing that Steven is in a better place.

“He was a good kid,” Samaria Diaz said. “I guess now he’s one of heaven’s Marines.”