Tears at Gonzales murder victim's funeral – Jayden's broken dreams

Jalil Samuel and friends of Jayden Reyes during the open floor tributes at the St Martin De Porres RC Church, Lange Street, Gonzales on June 10 - Enrique  Rupert
Jalil Samuel and friends of Jayden Reyes during the open floor tributes at the St Martin De Porres RC Church, Lange Street, Gonzales on June 10 - Enrique Rupert

"The duration of one's existence is less significant than the depth of their influence."

These were the words used by Candis James Marshall in the eulogy of Gonzales murder victim Jayden Reyes as hundreds of people including family, friends and well-wishers gathered at the St Martin De Porres RC Church, Lange Street, Gonzales on June 10 at Reyes' funeral.

Reyes' life was ended in a hail of bullets as he was shot multiple times outside the Accident and Emergency Department of the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH) on  June 2.

He was brought to hospital after being shot in the foot by gunmen who opened fire minutes earlier in Gonzales, Belmont. One man died in Gonzales as a result of the shooting.

As Reyes and other shooting victims were brought to the PoSGH, the same gunmen also arrived and opened fire. In total, four men were killed – one at Gonzales, Reyes at the PoSGH, and two others who were pronounced dead on arrival.

The victims were identified as Reyes, Peter Williams, 31, Kevin "Grimes" King, 33, and Johnathon "Johnny/Jman" Arjoon, 23.

Reyes' brother Jassani was also shot – once in the face and twice in the body – at the PoSGH as he and others were helping to take the wounded men out of from a vehicle. Jassani, his face heavily bandaged, was at his brother's funeral.

Marshall said Reyes, 21, a third-year medical student, wanted to become a paediatric surgeon, and was passionate about football from a young age. He was a part of his alma mater St Mary's College's intercol team, and also the UWI men's football team.

A gem from Gonzales

"In March, Reyes took his passion to new heights and helped organise a youth football tournament in the Gonzales community, which was very successful.

"He understood the importance of assisting others and giving back to his community as he volunteered at the St Dominic's home in Belmont, Gonzales homework centre, the Red Cross and the paediatrics ward of the Mt Hope Children's Hospital.

"Sadly the community that Jayden gave back to is the community in which he lost his life and that is a sad reality," Marshall said.

Jassani Reyes ,who was shot and injured during the June 2 mass shooting in Gonzales and the Port of Spain General Hospital, leaving his brother's funeral on June 10 at the St Martin De Porres RC Church, Lange Street, Gonzales - Enrique Rupert

She described Reyes as industrious, as he began working as a customer service representative on weekends and in his spare time while still in secondary school.

She said in 2019, Reyes interned at Guardian Life and then moved on to work at a catering company.

"He never turned down an offer for an honest day's pay."

She said only a few weeks ago, he was interviewed and offered a full-time position at Guardian Life, but turned it down, as he had to return to Jamaica to continue his medical studies.

"He was never involved in any illicit activities.

"Jayden was a product of his home environment, as he was nurtured and loved immensely by his family."

Marshall said his family not only played a part in the person he was, but the good in the community of Gonzales also contributed, but sadly, "The good is overshadowed by the bad."

She ended by speaking about the incident that took Reyes' life and the general state of crime.

"We as a small country continue to suffer from violence, a lack of respect for law and authorities, lack of respect for life and lack of respect and fear for God. Things seem to be getting worse."

Jassani, a member of the TT Regiment, was nearby when the shooting occurred in Gonzales and ran to assist Reyes and the other victims, after the gunmen sped off in their car.

Evil rewarded with silence

Parish priest Fr Matthew d'Hereaux said that for the past 20 years he has been hearing, "Trinidad gone through." But he believes "Trinidad is going through something.

"When we say we are going through something, the starting point is different...families will go through ups and downs, Gonzales and east Port of Spain will go through ups and downs. But we will never go through, we will never be vanquished and we will never be defeated."

D'Hereaux said as a country, Trinidad and Tobago needs to stop rewarding the wrongs with silence.

He gave the example of children coming home with stationery that was not theirs, yet parents "were rewarding them with silence."

He said since TT's independence in 1962, with all the corruption seen, "Any politician or high-ranking person ever make a jail? We reward all sorts of bad behaviours and we have to take responsibility for that as a country.

"We cannot reward evil!"

Reyes' friend Jalil Samuel was inconsolable during the open-floor tributes at the funeral, and could not complete his story about his fallen friend.

Samuel spoke about how "joyful and full of laughter" Reyes had made Samuel's childhood and he enjoyed moments such as cooking "the most delicious meals together."

Reyes' girlfriend Abiel Pedro shared stories of their relationship.

As Pedro spoke, Jassani wailed and became inconsolable as he was comforted by his father and other close relatives.

Pedro said she remembered on June 2, when she was booked to work two jobs back-to-back, she called Reyes and he promised he would bring her something to eat when she was finished.

When she finished an hour later, she called, but Reyes did not answer.

"As I was walking out complaining to a colleague that my calls were going unanswered, there he was, on the pavement, gyro in hand."
She said it was her exact gyro order: a shrimp gyro, ketchup and garlic sauce, no tomatoes. Reyes was allergic to shellfish but "he always bought the shrimp gyro because he knew it was my favourite."

She too emphasised the hard-working man Reyes was, his kind heart and how supportive he was to her.

"He was my biggest cheerleader. He believed in me so much, sometimes more than I believed in myself."


"Tears at Gonzales murder victim’s funeral – Jayden’s broken dreams"

More in this section