On Feb. 16, two days after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida, a Johansen High School freshman also became a victim of gun violence. About 6:40 p.m. that day at Modesto's Creekwood Park, three males got out of a white minivan, and one of them fired several shots at 14-year-old Henry Moniz.
The youth was hit four times with .22-caliber slugs. One struck him in the face, taking out four bottom teeth, fracturing his jaw and burning his gums to the extent he needed a skin graft. The second went into his lower back. Had Henry not been wearing his "lucky backpack," his mom said, police told the family he likely would have died. The third entered and exited his right hip, fracturing his ilium. And the fourth shot grazed his right forearm.
Henry is "doing remarkably well," said his mother, Kristy Moniz. "He has had one major oral surgery and will at least need a couple more."
While Stoneman students have become the faces and voices of a movement demanding stricter gun control, Henry is among those on the other side of the divide. Wednesday, he and a handful of fellow students plan to leave class at 10 a.m. as part of Stand for the Second, whose event map shows school walkouts in most of the 50 states. Summerville Union High School in Tuolumne also is registered.
At Johansen, Henry and his fellow protesters will position themselves on campus by the pedestrian bridge across Claus Road. They'll play the national anthem and carry flags, protest signs and banners, he said.
The message they want to share is simple, he said: "This country is founded on the Constitution by our forefathers ... and they shouldn't take our rights away." Those rights include Second Amendment protection to ensure a well-armed citizenry for the security of a free state.
Being shot made his convictions only stronger, Henry said. "Guns don't kill people. People kill people," he said, adding that stricter gun laws wouldn't have kept the gun out of the hands of the person who shot him. Most criminal shootings are with guns that were illegally obtained in the first place, he said.
That night, he was with friends at Creekwood well past dark, "way later than anybody should be there." The friends went home, but Henry stayed, thinking his dad or another family member would pick him up. He didn't want to walk home because his phone had died, and its tracker would show he still was at the park. If he started walking, no one would know where he was.
But when the three males, wearing hoodies, got out of the van near him and stood huddled, Henry was spooked and decided to walk away. He hadn't gone far when he heard footsteps behind him and turned. That's when the shots rang out.
Henry began to run for help, and darted in front of a driver, who stopped and called 911. He wasn't able to describe to police the assailants, who remain at large.
This nation having a well-armed citizenry probably wouldn't have kept him from being shot, Henry, said, but then again it might.
"My son (recently ) said to me, 'If a law-abiding citizen who was legally armed saw I was in trouble, they could have tried to help defend me'." his mother said.
"My son and I are avid gun shooters, going to the gun range to practice, and at times will practice with his grandfather," she said. "... Shooting at a legal gun range is not only a recreation for us. It's also practice to help defend our lives and our family, should such a situation were to arise."
Henry's shooting is not the first time the family has been victimized by gun violence. On June 6, 1992, Kristy Moniz's older brother, Ricky Myrick, was shot and killed by his neighbor in Hayward. An argument over parking escalated to a fistfight and then the neighbor getting a gun.
Moniz, who will turn 50 this June 6, the 26th anniversary of her brother's death, didn't have strong feelings on the Constitution back then, she said. His death initially led her to be in favor of stricter gun laws, but somewhere along the line — and she can't pinpoint where — she reversed course.
"I learned to realize that it wasn't the gun itself, it's the person behind it. And that's where it really started to open my eyes. Because, really, I could kill somebody with my keys if I had to. A car's a weapon, I have knives in the kitchen. ...
"You hear all these people getting on to the cops about shooting, like, the Stephon Clark thing, They're not blaming the gun there, they're blaming the cop. ... They kind of contradict themselves when it comes to that."
What do Henry and his mom think could help stem the tide of mass shootings? Armed officers on campus and stronger mental health checks for gun buyers, among other measures.
But not further limiting the types of guns people can legally buy, Henry said. "What you're doing is restricting the option for good Samaritans who want to defend themselves against people like" the man who shot him.'