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One year after Otay Mesa Church's Chicken shooting, families are grieving

Posted at 3:32 PM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 19:41:25-05

OTAY MESA, Calif. (KGTV) — One year ago, a man opened fire inside an Otay Mesa Church's Chicken.

On Friday, families are still grieving and plan to honor the somber milestone.

The fast-food restaurant sits on the corner of Del Sol and Picador Boulevards. Witnesses say the man tried to use counterfeit bills to buy food and was refused.

He killed Maribel Merino-Ibañez, 28, and severely injured Mario Rojas, who is a grandfather.

Friday, a drawing of Maribel's ghost above wilted flowers showed her loved ones still feel the emptiness.

Rojas barely escaped that night and is still going back to the hospital.

"I still have more surgeries coming in, I think probably next month," Rojas said over the phone.

He was shot in the arm and the stomach, which has led to back complications.

Last December, when he came home from the hospital, he described how difficult his recovery has been: "He destroyed my life, my dreams everything."

Rojas is in a similar state a year later, using a walker to get around and unable to work.

"My wife has to help me take a shower, and help me with the clothes, to change my clothes and everything," he said sadly.

The restaurant paying 20 hours a week of worker's compensation, not nearly enough to pay mounting medical bills and rent.

"I have a lot of depression right now," Rojas said.

His wife launched a GoFundMe page to help them through. Mario's coworkers at his former job are saving money on the side to help with this month's rent.

The man suspected of pulling the trigger, Albert Lee Blake, 49, faces a judge for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 16.