A doting father of two was fatally shot Friday in a Texas parking lot confrontation, holding a birthday cake meant to celebrate his 6-year-old daughter who was waiting for him at a nearby Chuck E. Cheese, heartbroken relatives said.
Calogero Duenes was fatally wounded following a verbal exchange caught on surveillance video with a driver who fled, authorities said.
Duenes, 24, then stumbled into the restaurant in Humble, Texas, where he collapsed, his sister in-law Rosemarie Uresti said Wednesday.
“I feel so sorry for my nieces,” Uresti, 18, said. “They have to grow up without a father now. He was a good father. He did everything for them.”
Uresti was unable to attend what was supposed to be a family party Friday night, she said.
Amber Uresti, Duenes’ wife and mother of the couple’s children, told NBC affiliate KPRC in Houston that she can’t fathom what would cause someone to react with senseless gun violence when Duenes was practically defenseless.
“It’s a tragedy. I really can’t wrap my head around it. Like, I’m hurt. I can’t understand how someone can do that to someone that’s holding a cake,” Uresti said.
“My husband passed without me, without anybody to hold his hand, to comfort him. I want justice. I want justice for my children, for Calogero,” she told the station.
The 25-year-old widow declined to comment Wednesday, saying she was making funeral arrangements with other relatives.
Humble police did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Police said the suspected shooter fled before they arrived. He was reportedly driving a burgundy Ford, KPRC reported.
Police obtained surveillance video they said showed Duenes’ encounter with the shooter, KTRK reported.
Police said the suspect drove the wrong way down a row of parking spaces and almost hit the victim. The video then shows the two exchange words. Moments later, a witness told police they heard three gunshots, according to the news outlet.
On a GoFundMe page for Duenes, Rosemarie Uresti wrote that her “entire family is devastated in this tragedy. He left behind 2 baby girls, Serina Divine Duenes 6 yrs old & Mallory Elizabeth Duenes 3 yrs old, This is not how we expected to start the new year.”
She said Wednesday that Duenes and her sister have been a couple for a decade. Duenes was always a protector — and a consummate jokester, Uresti said.
He worked as a landscaper and helped neighbors with their lawns and household needs, she said. They insisted on paying him, although Duenes often didn’t want to accept their money, Uresti said.
The compassion he showed family and friends was also how he treated his daughters, who, Uresti said, were spoiled by him.
“He said, ‘I don’t care. I didn’t have this as a kid. My kids are going to have it,'” she said.
Uresti said his 3-year-old is too young to understand, but 6-year-old Serina knows what happened to her dad.
“Serina cried herself to sleep the other night holding her daddy’s shirt and saying, ‘I miss my dad so much.'”
Antonio Planas is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.