Like all students, Stephen Guillermo wanted a break from studying before finals week, where he could just focus on having fun.

After a night of drinking with his friends, he walked into his apartment complex, but onto the wrong floor. Then he walked into the home of Amisi Sudi Kapecha, who saw Guillermo as an intruder and fired the shot that abruptly ended his life.

As journalists, Stephen’s tragic death took different tolls on all of us. At times, he was a story; at times he was a number.

Nothing was more powerful than the statement from his cousin, Emil Guillermo who said, there will be no “happy Mother’s Day” for his mother this year, a mother who lost her son all too early.

Everyone seems like an enemy when you feel broken down and empty but despite the tragic occurrence of Stephen’s death, Amisi Sudi Kachepa should not rot away in jail for what, in the moment, he perceived as legitimate self-defense.

Some have criticized Stephen for being inebriated during the incident, but as his family has said, Stephen was a 26-year-old college student in the middle of finals, who has supported his family since his father’s passing. He deserved a drink. He deserved, just like all of us, to have a night where he could just focus on having fun.

There should be no blame placed on what happened Saturday night. Stephen lost his life and Kachepa will probably spend the rest of his with the nightmare that he accidentally killed a young man who was not ready to pass.

Both of these men shared more than just an apartment complex, both of their lives were destroyed in an instant.

It’s easy to immediately want to place blame. It’s easy to use this tragic death to once again open the “gun control” debate or to bring up the “stand your ground law” question. But what is difficult and yet so integral, is forgiveness.

Stephen’s family describes him as “loving, gentle and caring.” The way we can remember him is to carry on those values.

So as the community calls for #justiceforstephen, remember that the best way to see to him justified is to carry on what he left behind. Remember to care for one another, to love when another, to be gentle and kind to one another.

I didn’t know Stephen but from what I do know, he would want his passing to carry meaning and to not be taken in vain. The best way to honor him is to carry on the values his family says he exemplified by carrying on his passion of spreading love, kindness and gentle compassion everywhere we go.

Joshua Connley stands outside of the Hall of Justice building Thursday, May 8 holding a sign for his cousin in protest, asking the district attorney's office to file charges against the man accused of shooting him in the early morning hours Saturday, May 3. Photo by Jessica Christian / Xpress
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Andrew Cullen

Andrew Cullen