An endless sea of cars was backed up along Hildebrand Avenue and its tributaries traveling away from the University of the Incarnate Word as the Baccalaureate Mass for 2014 graduates concluded. Robert Cameron Redus and his family could have been stuck in traffic Saturday night at 7 p.m. Instead, Cameron’s family and friends mourned the one-year anniversary of his death during a simple, quiet candlelight vigil in Brackenridge Park.
Cameron, a 23-year-old senior attending UIW, was shot five times by a campus police officer during an altercation after an off-campus traffic stop. He was intoxicated that tragic night as he headed home to the nearby Treehouse Apartments after celebrating the completion of UIW semester finals. Cameron was unarmed when he was killed in the parking lot of his apartment complex in the early hours of Dec. 6, 2013.
More than 50 people gathered below the faux bois bridge near the San Antonio River for the ceremony. His parents and three younger brothers – his older brother Kristopher couldn’t attend – close friends, old friends, acquaintances, and even folks who never had the pleasure of meeting Cameron, stood together in remembrance, song, and prayer.
“It means so much to us to see the support of the community,” said Cameron’s father, Mickey Redus. “Cameron would be honored … he was too good of a young man too forget.”
Those who spoke Saturday night described a young man wise beyond his years. He seemed never to miss an opportunity for adventure or human connection – be it a backpacking trip to South America or simply visiting a family friend while in town. One of his mottos:
‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Act when you have the chance. Act now.
“He blossomed here,” said Mark Hall of Cameron’s move to San Antonio from his home in Baytown. “People gravitated around him.”
Part of the reason why, said Cameron’s classmate and friend Jonathan Guajardo, is that he encouraged people around him to follow their passions. That wasn’t just a cool-sounding motto to Cameron – he meant it. And lived it.
“He wanted us to go out there and pursue our dreams,” Guajardo said. “He’d help (you) actually do it.”
Guajardo was serving as UIW Student Body President when Cameron was shot. He spent the following months calling for the UIW administration to review their policies regarding campus police officers and to make changes that, he said, could prevent this kind of tragedy in the future.
UIW released a statement Friday that described changes they’ve made to the UIW Police Department (UIWPD).
“… (w)e have made important changes in the direction and leadership of the UIWPD including, naming a new police chief, hiring new members of the department, enhancing communication for evening/weekend calls, and putting a greater emphasis on community policing,” stated UIW Chancellor Denis Doyle.
A far cry from the kind of reformation called for by some students and staff, but perhaps a step in the right direction.
“My prayer is that Cameron’s life will continue to have a positive impact,” Hall said. “While we’re pleased that (UIW) has initiated some changes … the real (pursuit is of) justice and truth.”
The UIW police officer who shot Cameron, Christopher Carter, remains on paid administrative leave and has not been charged in the case. Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed will not comment on the case and her successor, Nico LaHood, also has not commented on the case or any action he might take once he becomes District Attorney in January. On Nov. 25 a federal judge ruled that the civil trial brought against UIW and Carter by the Redus family will be heard in state court. A date has yet to be set.
Mickey Redus released the following statement early Saturday morning:
One year ago, our lives were forever changed. From that fateful 5 a.m. knock at the door, which proved to be every parent’s worst nightmare, up to today, our family, friends, and community have been unable to see themselves the same. Valerie and I are now parents who have lost a child. Kris, Everett, Ethan, and William have become siblings who have lost a brother. Countless others now see themselves as going on without a close friend. Some are lamenting the loss of a talented and promising student. None of us will ever know what might have been had Cameron’s life not been cut short. Regardless of what might have been, we do know that a loving, compassionate, and beautiful person is no longer alive and able to influence a world sorely in need of him and those like him.
The past year has been one of pain and frustration. We have been through unfathomable grief, which we pray no one else ever has to go through. That grief and loss has become our ever-present companion. The frustration that we and so many others have experienced is largely due to how slow information has been released. Aside from the autopsy, which was released in March (four months after Cameron’s death), we know little more than we did one year ago. As we have urged throughout this ordeal, we need to wait on the justice system to complete its work, which we continue to trust and pray will result in justice for Cameron.
We are humbly grateful for the countless expressions of kindness and love shown to Cameron’s family and friends. That support and love has been such a help to us as we have struggled through this year.
As we enter this holy season, we ask that you remember not just us and others who are grieving, but also the lost, hurting, and those who stand in need. Cameron would encourage us all to demonstrate our love and care for one another in word and deed. In Cameron’s words: “Act while you have the chance. Act now.”
Finally, we continue to hold firmly to our faith and trust in our Holy God. He knows what it is to lose a Son to injustice, and yet see the most redemptive results the world has ever seen. It is our prayer that good will ultimately come from the awful tragedy of Cameron’s death.
Read more about Cameron Redus’ life, death, and family’s lawsuit here.
*Featured/top image: Valerie and Mickey Redus (center) bow their heads in tearful prayer during a candlelight vigil on the one-year anniversary of Cameron Redus’ death. Photo by Scott Ball.