Gabriel Cooley's close friends and family still can't wrap their heads around the unthinkable, unimaginable thing that happened to Gabriel Cooley, who they called an innocent teenager.
“Everyone’s just kind of in shock right now,” said Collin Kieschnick, Cooley’s teammate and friend on the football team. “We never really think about these things in an everyday situation.”
Cooley, an 18-year-old Calallen High School senior, was stabbed in Walmart on Hwy. 77 in the Calallen area and died from his injuries Sunday afternoon.
Cooley and Kieschnick are both listed as kickers for the Calallen Wildcats. Playing the same position, they spent a lot of time together on and off the field.
“He was really the only partner I’d practice with,” Kieschnick said. “It’s something I’m going to have to get used to doing alone now.”
Monday evening Kieschnick’s attended his first practice since learning about his teammate’s death, kicking field goals through the uprights on the football field by himself.
“He had a big future planned and always encouraged other people," he said. "He was just an incredible person overall. I think we’re just going to have to grow from it and dedicate this season to him.”
The football field wasn’t the only field Cooley excelled on. He was named captain of the soccer team after moving to the Coastal Bend from San Antonio last year, and earned District 30-5A's Newcomer of the Year honors last season.
“It’s extremely rare that someone walks onto a team and becomes a captain their first year,” said Calallen Head Soccer Coach Andrew McGinnis. “For me, Gabe had it all. He was really some of the glue that made us stick.”
What also stuck, McGinnis said, was Cooley's outgoing, friendly personality.
“He always had a really hard work ethic, always very respectful, always had a good attitude,” he said.
Jeffrey Hunt, a close family friend who knew Cooley for a number of years, said Cooley always was willing to lend a helping hand, too. He volunteered with Sea City Work Camp and a hospice company in his spare time.
“He never met a stranger and he would give you the shirt off of his back,” Hunt said. “Today, the Cooley family got to talk about some memories, some fun times and they had some laughs, but it’s still really difficult for them.”
Hunt organized a GoFundMe page to help the Cooley family cover funeral expenses. It already had raised nearly $25,000 in less than a day.
Journey Church, located in Calallen, will be holding a prayer service to remember Cooley from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday. His family, friends, teammates and the Calallen community are welcome to pay their respects.
“It’s gonna leave a huge hole on our team," McGinnis said. "We’re just kind of struggling to cope with this right now. He was just a great kid, and I can’t imagine how anyone would do something like this.”
The suspect involved in the fatal stabbing is 20-year-old Billy Ferguson.
Calallen ISD Superintendent Arturo Almendarez said Ferguson graduated from the district two years ago.
He has been arrested and is facing murder charges.
Witnesses said the incident happened in the food department of the store. When first responders arrived, they found Cooley with multiple stab wounds. He was taken to an area hospital and pronounced dead.