Holding a large picture of a beaming man, Paula Evans asked the mourners gathered Wednesday night to remember her husband as he was instead of the violence that ended his life.
But as more than two dozen people crowded around the spot where Eric Evans died in front of an east Bakersfield apartment complex, they also reflected on the senselessness of his death.
Evans was shot multiple times early Tuesday morning outside his apartment in the 2600 block of Haley Street, according to a Kern County Sheriff's Department news release and his wife. The department is investigating the death as a homicide and described the suspect as a Hispanic man wearing a white T-shirt and dark shorts. The news release said there was no known motive for the shooting and that it was unknown if the it was gang-related.
Wednesday night's vigil appeared to be under the watch of several unmarked law enforcement vehicles parked down the street and across the road from the apartment complex.
Pastor Josephate Jordan, chairman for Stop the Violence, attended the vigil to offer assistance to Evans' family. The group tries to bring tranquility in the wake of gang-related shootings when there may be a push for retaliation, Jordan said, adding that he had not heard that Evans' shooting was tied to gangs.
"Even if it's not gang-related, we want to try and still maintain a level of peace," Jordan said.
Before the group congregated to pray, family and friends remembered Evans as a giving, fun-loving man. Paula recalled her husband's incessant smile and generosity.
"You could be lying out your teeth, but if you came and told him, 'My baby don't have any milk,' and he only got five dollars, he'll give you that five dollars. That's just the person he was," she said.
Paula met Evans in Bakersfield when he was inking tattoos at her son's house. He gave Paula her first tattoo, a cross outlined by hearts on her leg.
"He's such a sweet guy. He's non-confrontational and his sense of humor is what really attracted me to him," Paula said.
The couple was married for four years. Paula said Evans was originally from Durham, N.C., and served in the Marine Corps for eight years. Though Paula's three children were grown, Evans was a father figure to them.
Paula said she moved into the College Gardens apartments on July 1. She managed the complex and Evans, an electrician, did maintenance on the apartments. He sometimes sat outside at night, when he told her worked better, Paula said.
On Tuesday morning, Paula awoke to a thud. She opened the front door but Evans screamed at her to close it, saying, "He's got a gun," she said. Paula saw Evans backing away from the apartment with his hands outstretched. After Paula shut the door to call the police, she heard three gunshots. When she came out, Evans lay on the ground bleeding.
"This type of crime is senseless, it's ridiculous, it needs to stop," Paula said Wednesday standing near the place where she found her husband. "I don't want any repercussions behind this because that would tarnish my husband's memory, and I want my husband to be remembered for the man that he was."