Derrick Gaines was an outgoing, popular and funny teenager who loved music and rap, according family and friends who gathered Wednesday afternoon in a vigil at the Arco gas station the night before.
"He was outgoing, he was chill, always positive," said friend Noor Gheith, 17, who would play football with Gaines in Westborough Park on Saturdays.
"He could make anybody laugh," said Nysaya Garcia, 19, a recent South San Francisco High School graduate who met Gaines in summer school. "He was like my little brother."
"He was funny and very, very loud," said Savannah Valadez, 15, an student who met Gaines as a student at Parkway Heights Middle School. "He would crack jokes, try to be an attention-getter. He was a people person."
Gaines, 15, lived near with his great aunt and had attended Monte Verde Elementary School, , and Westborough Middle School, according to friends and SSFUSD Superintendent Alejandro Hogan.
He had just finished eighth grade at Foxridge and was heading to in the fall, Hogan said.
after running away from an officer who tried to stop him and a friend on Tuesday, but the people who came out to share memories and leave flowers, candles and stuffed animals a makeshift memorial said that wasn't the Derrick they knew.
"He was not mean, not thuggish," said his great aunt, Dolores Piper, who raised him. "Teachers always thought he was a helluva trip."
"There was no reason to kill him. He was running away from the police," said Gaines' stepfather, Michael Red, standing amid close to 100 teenagers who had come out to remember Gaines. "This could happen to any one of these kids out here."
"All of these kids suffer from the same thing: being a minority in South San Francisco," said Gaines' mother, Rachel Guido Red. Gaines was mixed race but identified as black, his friends said.
"Our first reaction when the cops come up is to run," Garcia said. "We're afraid."
"The truth is, they had no reason to stop him," Red said. "We have these kids that dress like they dress, talk like they talk, do like they do and the police have no idea how to communicate with them."
Red said he would be surprised if Gaines had a gun, but even if he did, he didn't point it at the officer. The question of whether he pointed it at the officer by the South San Francisco Police Department and the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.
Piper, Gaines' aunt, said she went into the Grand Avenue barber shop on Wednesday where Gaines regularly had his hair cut. The barber gave what she considered to be a perfect description of Gaines.
"He said he had this identity crisis going on, but he was a good kid underneath it," Piper recounted.
"He was a good kid. He was looking for direction," Red said.
Liza Gonzalez, whose daughter went to school with Gaines, said he was a sweet boy who never had problems with teachers.
"I don't believe he's ever had any weapons," Gonzalez said. "From what my daughter's been telling me, he's been hanging around with the wrong kids."
Gaines bounced around several middle schools before ending up at Foxridge Community Day School, the district's program for expelled students. He was known to police, according to SSFPD Capt. Mike Brosnan.
But his friend Garcia said Gaines was turning things around.
"He changed," Garcia said. "He stopped getting into so much trouble."
Gaines was a persistent person who had already worked hard to overcome challenges in his life, his mother said.
"Derrick was born with club feet, so he had to learn to walk in casts," Guido Red said. "Derrick was a wonderful kid. He was a rapper, he was a prankster. Derrick was very liked, very loved and he mattered."