BY CRAIG SHULTZMembers of Eric Sargeant Jr.’s family expressed thanks for the overwhelming show of support they have received from the community during his funeral Saturday, Jan. 19. An estimated 500 people filled the chapel at Hemet Church of the Nazarene to say goodbye to the 16-year-old Hemet High sophomore, who died after being stabbed Monday, Jan. 14. “I want to express all our gratitude to such a caring group of people,” Eric’s grandfather, Ron Lansing, said during a eulogy. “We talk about how bad this valley is getting; it’s not because we have all these kids here. … Eric touched our lives and in our loss we realize how many friends he had and has.” Eric’s father, also Eric Sargeant, drove for two days from his home in South Carolina for the service. “I knew he had friends, but not this many,” he said. Sargeant said he was planning to give the truck he drove out in to his son when he graduated from high school. Now, he said, he’ll probably keep it for Eric’s younger brother, Carter, 12. Before the service, friends and relatives lined up before an open casket to get one last look at the teen. Others signed poster boards and looked at photographs displayed in the foyer. During his eulogy, Lansing said Eric, known among family as “Squirt,” enjoyed being outdoors. “He loved the water, he loved being outdoors,” Lansing said. “He loved fishing and boating and swimming.” As others have been saying since the tragedy, Lansing spoke of Eric’s good nature and his infectious laugh. “He loved music,” Lansing said. “I’m not sure what kind of music; maybe his friends know. He always had his iPod with him and his skateboard.” Lansing ended his talk with a message to the mourners. “Don’t let it die here,” he said. “Parents, love your kids. Kids, if your parents are strict, let them be. They only want what’s best for you.” Eric was stabbed near Acacia Avenue and Cherrywood Drive in East Hemet around 4:45 p.m. Monday and died later at Riverside County Regional Medical Center. Police arrested three males, a 20-year-old and two teenagers, in connection with his death Thursday, Jan. 17. Riverside County sheriff’s investigators have not released a motive.
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