"Max was a kind-hearted kid. He was willing to step up and help anyone at any time. He had a million-dollar smile."
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on July 9, 2021. It has since been updated.
Trigger warning: This story contains details of gun violence that may be disturbing to readers.
It's only natural for young children to be curious about new things, and Max Mendoza, who resided at the Woodland Hills Condominium Complex on Telegraph Canyon Road was no exception. The 12-year-old boy's friend, 15, had come home for a sleepover, and he had reportedly brought a gun with him, per PEOPLE.
According to Fox5 San Diego, the shooting happened around 9 am on Saturday, July 4, and the boy was found with a visible gunshot wound outside his apartment complex. Cops who turned up at the site of the accident tried to administer life-saving measures before rushing him to the hospital, where he was later declared dead.
According to police, the 15-year-old friend — whose name is not being released as he's a minor — brought a gun to his sleepover with Max who then "was given access to the firearm while inside the residence and then accidentally shot himself."
Family and friends came together Monday to mourn Maximilian "Max" Mendoza, the 12-year-old boy shot and killed this weekend at a Chula Vista condominium complex. https://t.co/KMgZFqIIAW— FOX 5 San Diego (@fox5sandiego) July 6, 2021
Family members of the boy shifted him out of the house to wait for paramedics to arrive, who then took him to the hospital. The boy who brought the gun has been identified, but cops are now trying to investigate how he managed to get hold of the firearm in the first place.
Police detained the 15-year-old who they say “was a companion to the victim and is related to the investigation,” but the person was released to his family by investigators, Chula Vista police Lt. Dan Peak said.
Max is survived by his mother and four sisters, his mother, Aida Mendoza, shared. "Everybody loves his smile," she said. "He was such a good-hearted boy."
"Even though he was only 12, you would talk to him and you would feel like you were talking to someone your age," his sister, Macy Mendoza, told the outlet. "He was so mature for his age. He was so wise beyond his years." She continued, “He always looked out for them at school, he’d be the one to pick them up from their classes and then walk over here. Even though he was four years younger than me, he’d be like, ‘Any guy gets near you, I’m going to deal with them.’”
A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family with funeral costs for Max, "a truly special guy," who loved playing soccer and skateboarding.
"He was charming and funny. He had a heart twice the size of the average kid. He was always willing to share whatever little he had with his classmates even if they weren't his closest friends," mom Aida wrote on the page. "Max was a kind-hearted kid. He was willing to step up and help anyone at any time. He had a million-dollar smile. He greeted everyone he saw with his giant smile and lived life with a positive attitude."
While the family now waits for answers, friends and relatives are supporting them in any way they can. “They’re not alone in what they’re going through right now,” one of Max’s friends said. The grieving family is now holding onto Boy, a dog Max had once rescued from the streets. “That was Max’s best friend,” Macy said.
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe | Max Mendoza Funeral Expenses