AVONDALE, Ariz. - A Peoria family is devastated after a deadly crime spree by a now locked up man who is also accused of attacking an elderly landscaper and a woman.
Twenty-four-year-old James Matthew Archuleta III, known as Matthew, was killed in an Avondale shopping center on Sunday, Feb. 7 and now his family is speaking out saying they want to keep his legacy alive.
They say he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, believing Archuleta was a victim of a senseless road rage incident.
"Had the hugest smile. He was just an awesome, awesome soul. Beautiful little man with a ginormous heart," said his mother, Annabelle Archuleta.
Now, only photos share that smile they miss so much.
Avondale Police say 30-year-old Gabriel Gutierrez shot and killed Archuleta in a shopping center near Dysart Road and Cold Water Plaza North. His father, James Archuleta II, says detectives tell him the cause is road rage, claiming Gutierrez said he was almost hit by Archuleta's car before following him for a mile or so.
"My son, if he did that, he would have stopped rolled down his window and apologized to the greatest extent he could," his father said.
He says a bystander tried to save his son moments after the shooting by performing CPR while yelling for others to call 911 as Archuleta spent his final moments in a parking lot.
"He's a hero in my eyes for taking care of my son," his father said about the man who tried to save his son's life.
The last person to see Archuleta was his girlfriend, Tori Emerson, who says they planned to watch a movie Sunday night.
"You know, we said our 'Bye, I love yous' and that was it," she remembered. She says Archuleta just got a new job and they planned to move into a new place in a couple of weeks.
Archuleta was her high school sweetheart, and she says, "I feel robbed of my future, of the life I would have had. The family I would have married into, the kids we would have had."
Phoenix Police arrested Gutierrez two days later at a casino. The convicted felon is accused of several charges, including Archuleta's murder.
"He was my only son. My name stops here," his father said.
Donate to the family's GoFundMe here https://gofund.me/6a793dc2