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Heber Community Rallies in Support of 7-Year-Old Shooting Victim's Family

The Rodriguez-Irizarry family

The shooting death of a little girl in a Heber City apartment Friday has left family members dealing with grief and arranging a funeral in Puerto Rico.

In the days following the death of 7-year-old Zai Rodriguez-Irizarry, over 700 donors have contributed more than $45,000 toward funeral costs and assistance for her family.

Zai was a student at J.R. Smith Elementary School.

Her father, Danny Rodriguez, moved to Heber City with Zai and his 5-year-old son about a year ago. He now must have his daughter’s body flown back to Puerto Rico, where Zai’s mother lives.

The community’s fundraising will help with costs that a family friend said are especially high now due to the pandemic.

Ruben Navarrete, a pastor at Mountain Life Church in Park City who has spent time with Danny Rodriguez since the tragedy, said although the family still faces many difficulties in the days to come, the support has been outstanding.

“The whole community is shaking. Not only churches, but the vast number of people have been supporting him from the beginning of this tragedy,” Navarrete said.

Aside from funeral arrangements, Navarrete said Rodriguez also has to figure out legal counsel and a new living space. The pastor said a bilingual friend from Puerto Rico has helped with the language barrier Rodriguez faces.

“I would say he’s a guy of noble heart. He’s not cursing anybody. He’s a very noble man. That is my concept of him. Very grateful for people around him and so many people he doesn’t know who they are supporting him financially,” the pastor said.

Memorials are will be held from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. today and tomorrow at 288 North Main Street in Heber City.   

According to Zai’s father, a bullet traveled through a wall and into her stomach late Friday night. According to a Sheriff’s report, he called 911 at about 10:30 p.m. and said he was bringing his daughter to the hospital. She died an hour later.

Sheriff’s Deputies responding to the 911 call at the apartment complex Friday night heard a gunshot coming from inside or near a neighboring apartment. They then arrested three men in the apartment next door to the Rodriguez family.

Two suspects, Trever Pinter and Colin Howells, were released on bail and will face an arraignment that had not been set at the time of this report. Christopher O’Connell was charged with manslaughter and is being held without bail.

Sheriff’s Office dispatch supervisor Carrie Diggs told KPCW it was not known whether the gun was legally registered to any of the men. She also said events leading up to the shooting remained under investigation.

To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/zaydanielys-actos-funebres-y-transporte-a-p-r

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