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Family of Aurora 13-year-old believes teen died from fentanyl

Aurora Police say it is an active and open investigation
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Posted at 4:38 PM, Aug 14, 2022

AURORA, Colo. — Jose Hernandez turned 13 on Christmas Day. His family said he just started eighth grade at Aurora Hills Middle School this month. He's described as a friendly, sweet, and loving teenager, who was an avid skateboarder.

His skateboard is now part of a memorial inside the home where Jose lived.

Jose was being raised by his grandmother, Margarita Velasquez, along with other members of his family, like his uncle Abisaid Hernandez. The two said Jose died early in the morning on August 10.

Abisaid translated from Spanish to English for his mother during an interview with Denver7, where she said she woke up early last Wednesday and began making lunch for her husband. She noticed a light in the bathroom was on and knocked on the door, but she did not get a response. Velasquez thought whoever was in the bathroom may have been showering.

Family of Aurora 13-year-old says teen died from fentanyl

Around 10 or 15 minutes passed, and Velasquez grew worried. She opened the door to the bathroom and saw her grandson, Jose, leaning over with his head in the sink.

"I yelled at him. And I said, Jose, Jose, what's going on with you? What are you doing?" said Velasquez. "My body started hurting. I felt like my bones were breaking into pieces. I would never have thought that my kid would die this way.”

Abisaid heard his mother and ran towards the bathroom.

"His veins were all blue and purple on his arms. And he was just very cold. His eyes were open. And that was the saddest part for me to see," Abisaid recalled. “I held him in my arms. And, you know, I asked him if he was okay. Or, why did he do that? You know, why did he have to do that to himself?”

The family believes Jose took a pill that contained illicit fentanyl. Abisaid said he thinks another student gave Jose the substance.

“He didn't expect that obviously. And it was just very sad because we told him the day before, hey, don't do that. You know, something like that could happen, and look how we found him," said Abisaid.

The Aurora Police Department (APD) confirmed they responded to Velasquez's home on August 10 at 4:40 a.m. for an unresponsive 13-year-old. APD said it is an active and open investigation, so they cannot release any further information at the moment.

The family is waiting on official autopsy results to confirm Jose's cause of death.

Abisaid said Jose's mother was deported to Mexico in 2013, and since then, he has helped raise Jose along with his two younger brothers. The family is working to get Jose's mother to Colorado so she can attend her son's funeral, which is currently planned for August 26.

To help cover funeral expenses, the family started a GoFundMe with a goal of $10,000.

Unfortunately, the impacts of illicit fentanyl can be seen across Colorado. The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment reported 472 deaths involving drugs in Denver County last year, and 244 were related to fentanyl. So far this year, nearly half of all drug-related deaths have been fentanyl cases. Due to pending cases, the overdose data from DDPHE is delayed by several weeks.