Justin Snyder was turning his life around just as it ended, friends and family members said Saturday.
Snyder, 17, was killed early Dec. 5 from a stab wound he received during a fight in a northwest Spokane neighborhood.
“He was a beautiful 17-year-old that did 17-year-old things. He was not an angel, but he did not deserve this,” said Snyder’s grandma, Pat Hansen. “He was so full of joy and laughter.”
About 100 family members and friends celebrated his life at a candlelight vigil Saturday evening at Manito Park.
“He could bring so much energy and excitement to everybody,” said Snyder’s friend, Chris Horn. “He showed a lot of love.”
At the vigil, friends talked about how Snyder kissed his friends on the cheek, was a great dancer, made people laugh and loved Jesus Christ.
“The tattoos on his body told of his love of the Lord,” said Jo Ann Bargel, Snyder’s aunt.
Snyder had been in trouble with the law in the past and had spent time in juvenile detention. But in the past few months, he had gotten his general equivalency diploma and started work at Spokane Produce. He had lived with Hansen for about six months.
“The kid turned his whole life around,” said Brandon Joy, another friend of Snyder’s.
Snyder and his friend Jade Britton were stabbed during the fight, which occurred in the 3700 block of West Rockwell. He and several friends had been at a party in the area.
Police said last week that they were not certain who brought the knife to the party. They said that Snyder started the fight and that it appears that the person who stabbed the two did so in self-defense.
Friends and family dispute that.
Britton, who was at the vigil, said he spent two days in the hospital for a stab wound to his kidney. He said that he believes that police are hesitant to pursue the charges against the stabber because he and Snyder have criminal records.
Britton said that neither Snyder nor he had weapons that night and that the two of them were fighting with about eight people.
“I don’t see how they could say self-defense when Justin didn’t have any weapons of any sort,” Hansen said. “We’re hoping they reconsider.”
Under state law, a homicide is justified if the killer thinks he or she is about to become the victim of a felony and great personal injury.
Although police said that the stabber appeared to have acted in self-defense, they also said that the investigation would continue.