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SCHOOL MOURNS BRISENIA
By Jaime Richardson, Green Valley News
Sopori School’s summer enrichment program started Monday, but instead of laughing and playing with Brisenia Flores, her school friends were talking to grief counselors.
Brisenia and her father were gunned down early Saturday in their Arivaca home by four intruders. Her mother was also shot but survived, and another sister was staying with relatives at the time.
Brisenia, 9, had just finished third grade at the Amado school. “This is devastating, shocking,” Sopori Principal Desi Raulston said. “Brisenia’s teacher was so upset. We are trying to reach out to the kids and to other family members all affected by this tragedy.” Raulston described Brisenia as a “conscientious student,” and “well-liked by teachers and other students.”
The Sahuarita Unified School District called in a crisis team to counsel students and teachers.
“Some of these kids still carry dolls,” Raulston said. “They’re young, but they still know something terrible happened.” Over the weekend, residents huddled on street corners, and a luncheon at the Arivaca Community Center for volunteers was dominated by the news. On Monday, everybody was seeking answers, but few were willing to talk.
An emotional Roger Beal, who knows the family and owns the Arivaca Mercantile where Brisenia’s mother works, said the community was in shock. “It’s just unthinkable what happened,” he said, “it’s tragic.”
But Beal, like many in the tight-knit community, was reluctant to talk about the shootings. He said the staff has been “inundated” with calls from the media and were interviewed by Sheriff’s deputies Monday. He declined to comment on widespread speculation about a motive. “We’re a very close community down here,” said Ellen Dursema, coordinator at the community center where the girl’s mother volunteered and Brisenia was to attend summer camp. “We love and care about each other. We’re like an extended family.”
Law officials have asked that the mother’s name not be released.
Monday was the first day of camp, and “a lot of the kids hadn’t heard yet,” said Dursema. “We had to tell them they’re not going to be seeing Brisenia.” Some cried, others didn’t know how to react. Counselors from the Southern Arizona Mental Health Center were on hand to help out. Volunteers gathered the group around in a prayer circle, and a feather was passed from child to child. They were encouraged to ask questions and share happy memories of their friend and neighbor. Later, the kids made a “Get Well” banner for Brisenia’s mother and shaped animal figurines for her out of clay. Dursema described Brisenia as “sweet, beautiful and artistic.” She said she “loved her mother very much.” She said the girl went above and beyond this past Mother’s Day, spending extra time in crafting several pairs of beaded earrings for her mother at the community center.
Dursema’s last memory of Brisenia is of her and her older sister making a “human wheelbarrow” on the playground, running, laughing and full of joy.
She said the whole family is well-known and well-liked, and called Raul “Junior” Flores a good father and a generous man, who on a whim would treat all the volunteers to lunch from the local taco stand. Brisenia’s grandparents and great-grandparents live in Green Valley. Just down the street from the center, mourners left flowers in front of the home where the father and daughter were slain.