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TROUTDALE, Ore. – Jennifer Hoffman, mother of Reynolds High School shooting victim Emilio Hoffman, admits she’s still trying to make sense of what happened last Tuesday.
“I have always been the person that believes everything happens for a reason and I can’t find a reason for this,” Hoffman said in an exclusive interview with KATU News on Wednesday.
Hoffman invited KATU’s Hillary Lake into her home because she wanted people to know more about her son.
“(Emilio) kind of had the whole package,” Hoffman said. “He was smart. He was handsome. The girls loved him. His friends loved him. He was athletic. He was intelligent. He gave back to the community.”
Last Tuesday, 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman was in the boys’ locker room at Reynolds High School when fellow student Jared Padgett shot him with an assault rifle, killing him.
Investigators believe Hoffman wasn’t targeted but was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
After being cornered by police, Padgett then killed himself.
When KATU News asked about Padgett’s parents, Hoffman said she wants to speak to them, eventually.
“I don’t feel anger towards them,” Hoffman said. “I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for them because I honestly feel like they didn’t know their son.”
A Mother's Pride
The last concrete image she has of her son is a beautifully framed picture of him, wearing his soccer uniform and holding his soccer ball. His poise in the picture, youthful and strong, elicits a sense of pride in his mother.
"We talked about that look in that picture, too," she said. "We talked about why didn't you smile. He said we had to be tough. So that's his tough look. I love it nonetheless."
Hoffman said she told Emilio she loved him before he left for Reynolds High School that morning. Less than an hour later, she found herself on campus after reports of a shooting.
"We tried to walk up by the tennis courts and the officers told us everybody has to go to the church. So we went to the church, and we waited, and we waited. And I text. And I called."
All she could do was watch and wait as hundreds of kids filed out of the school with their hands up. Emilio wouldn't be one of them.
"It was the most horrific thing I've ever seen. And I sit there, and I watched every single kid come out of that school," Hoffman said.
"It didn't occur to me, I mean I knew that the schedule was flipped upside down that day for finals, but I still thought Emilio was in the art building. Until somebody said, no, he was in PE. He was in the gym too. That's when I was worried because the kids in the gym were the first kids out, and I didn't realize that."
Two hours later, she got the news. Police pulled her into a room at the church across the street where she'd been waiting and told her Emilio was killed by a classmate.
Her reaction: "Disbelief. Anger. I just wanted to leave. I didn't know what to do.
"Somebody asked for my keys, and I threw them at him. I feel like I didn't have any control over anything at that point - you told me I've lost my son, and now you're telling me I can't drive."
Emilio was part of a big family. He was Hoffman's oldest biological son and a brother to three foster children.
Hoffman said she loves all of her children. But Emilio was her firstborn.
"Emilio was funny. He was smart. He could turn the academics on or off," she said.
Part 1 -- "I can't find a reason for this."
Part 2 -- "We talked about why didn't you smile. He said we had to be tough. So that's his tough look."
Part 3 -- "I feel sorry for them because I honestly feel like they didn't know their son."