Stunned fans mourn TikTok star Anthony Barajas, killed in movie theater shooting

·4 min read
On Saturday night, hours after Abthony Barajas was declared dead, hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil outside the Corona movie theater where the teens were shot.
On Saturday night, hours after Anthony Barajas was declared dead, hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil outside the Corona movie theater. (KTLA-TV Channel 5)

In his final TikTok video July 22, Anthony Barajas pans to each of his family members, who lovingly poke fun at one another as they share a meal at a crowded eatery in Hawaii.

Just four days later, the 19-year-old would be shot execution-style inside a Corona movie theater. He was taken off life support and pronounced dead Saturday.

Now, many of Barajas' nearly 1 million TikTok followers, who came to know him through his charming lip-sync videos, skits with his friends and musings on relationships and heartache, are mourning his death on the same app that brought him so much adoration.

On Saturday, a wave of comments on Barajas' TikTok videos turned from an outpouring of love and support — messages of “you got this” and “keep fighting” and prayers upon prayers — to grieving a young life taken too soon.

“Heaven gained another angel today, you impacted everyone so much," one fan wrote. "You will be missed."

“Rest up buddy. You’re in a better place now.”

“May you meet allah and be in forever peace.”

"I can't believe he's gone…."

Many fans lamented the death of Barajas' friend, 18-year-old Rylee Goodrich, who was also shot in the head at the Regal Edwards Corona Crossings theater. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Barajas and Goodrich were on their first date, the slain woman's father said in an interview with KNBC-TV Channel 4. Barajas had just returned from Hawaii and brought each of Goodrich's family members a souvenir from the trip.

Theater employees discovered Barajas and Goodrich while cleaning the auditorium at 11:45 p.m. The friends had just watched “The Forever Purge,” the fifth installment in a horror film franchise that chronicles an annual night of lawlessness and murder.

The next day, 20-year-old Joseph Jimenez of Corona was arrested on suspicion of murder and robbery. Investigators said they found a firearm that matched the caliber of the weapon used in the shooting along with other evidence at the crime scene.

On Friday, the Riverside County district attorney’s office charged Jimenez with one count of murder with a sentencing enhancement of personal use of a firearm causing death, one count of attempted murder with a sentencing enhancement of personally inflicting great bodily injury and a sentencing enhancement of personal use of a firearm causing great bodily injury.

Jimenez was booked into the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, where he is being held without the possibility of bail. If convicted, Jimenez would be eligible for the death penalty based on the sentencing enhancements.

Police said they have not identified a motive in the shooting, which they described as an “unprovoked attack.” No connection has been made between Jimenez and the victims, authorities said Saturday.

During the suspect's Friday afternoon arraignment hearing, Goodrich's father could be heard imploring Jimenez to look at him. "Look at me, bro. Look at me. Look at me, dude," he repeated as Jimenez was escorted out of the courtroom.

On Saturday night, hours after Barajas was declared dead, hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil outside the Corona movie theater where the friends were shot.

"I know the biggest thing she would want is just to have everybody together," Skylar Schueller, a friend of Goodrich's, said as she wiped away tears. "I think she's looking down on us now and I think she's smiling."

Barajas graduated from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana in 2019, according to the private Catholic school.

"Our Catholic faith defines the Mater Dei community, and we now ask Mary, the mother of God, to give us strength," Father Walter E. Jenkins, the school president, said in a statement.

Barajas was a soccer star at Mater Dei, earning team MVP and all-county honors during his senior season in 2018-19, according to the Press-Enterprise. Off the field, he was an honor student, a member of his school's highest choral group and performed lead roles in school drama productions.

Barajas' former singing teacher, Milton Jackson, recalled his student's "ever-positive attitude, his insistence that I listen to Shawn Mendes’ complete discography in its entirety, and wonderful vocal chops."

"He knew what he wanted out of life and was determined to go get it," Jackson wrote on a GoFundMe page for Barajas' family. "He did just that."

The influencer's love for music is evident in his TikTok videos. He sang along soulfully to Justin Bieber and James Arthur, and performed his own rendition of Taylor Swift's "Love Story" — always with a characteristically big smile on his face.

“Please don’t delete his account," a fan wrote on his final TikTok video. "I want to continue watching these videos where he sings and where he is happy.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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