Posted on January 19, 2013 at 9:18 PM
KENNER, La. - One day after a witness to the deadly shootings took the stand for the first time, the families of St. John deputies who were slain or injured in the tragedy last summer are receiving an outpouring of community support.
It was hard to hold back tears Saturday for the families of four St. John Parish Sheriff’s deputies shot in the line of duty. The Octavio Gonzalez Memorial Foundation presented them with a check for nearly $30,000, to be split between the families.
For Wendy Nielsen, the continued community support keeps her son’s memory alive.
“Five months have passed and it seems like the community has not forgotten and we so much appreciate that,” said Nielsen, whose son, Brandon Nielsen, was one of two St. John deputies shot and killed in August.
“It's a beautiful day, it's a great day. I think it's going to help with the healing process, but we take it one day at a time,” said St. John Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre.
The Octavio Gonzalez Memorial Foundation was created after Gonzalez was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2006. He served as a commander in the St. John Parish Sheriff's office. Now his widow is dedicated to helping other families heal.
“It's the least we can do,” said Gloria Gonzalez. “So many people came to help us, they raised so much money for us, just to help with the boys and raising the boys. So it feels good just to be able to really give back.”
The check was presented in the same spot where the money was raised, on Muss Bertolino baseball field in Kenner, where there's an annual youth tournament.
Last year, the tournament was canceled because not enough teams participated. Gonzalez is hoping 20 teams of players aged seven through 12 will participate this year.
Deputies Nielsen and Jeremy Triche lost their lives last summer. Deputies Michael Scott Boyington and Jason Triche are still recovering.
On Friday, a witness testified in court. The trial will likely move forward in 2014.
“That's what we want,” said Wendy Nielson. “We want justice for Brandon, and Jeremy and the other officers involved. We certainly want that the most.”
The Nielsen family said the Gonzalez Foundation is inspiring them to create a foundation for Brandon Nielsen.
“We're really proud of him and we want to make sure his name is out there as well as help for anybody else who has to go through what we've gone through,” said Steve Nielsen, Brandon Nielsen’s father.