Friends focused on the happy memories yesterday: A former babysitter recalled a shy, 2-year-old Jack "Steve" Cornejo who hid behind his blanket two decades ago. A high school soccer coach remembered being welcomed on his first day of work by a 6-foot-tall, spiked-hair Cornejo, the team captain.
Behind them as they spoke, Cornejo, 23, lay in a coffin under the soft lighting of an Arlington funeral home, a framed soccer jersey propped beside him. Mourners filled the small room, often breaking out in loud sobs.
"My heart is in peace. . . . I feel it was time for him to go," Austin Cornejo said, speaking of his son.
But words painted on the rear window of a beige sport-utility vehicle outside the funeral home told a different story, expressing a demand that has galvanized friends and family in recent days: "Justice for Steve."
Cornejo, of Falls Church, was fatally shot June 25 during a fight at a Fair Oaks apartment complex. Police have questioned the shooter, but no charges have been filed -- a fact that has frustrated friends and family.
"We lose Steve, and then we feel that things are not properly done," said Corina Menjivar, Cornejo's aunt. "That's another pain, besides the loss."
Police said the investigation has been handled like any other and has not been completed. Law enforcement sources said lab results are pending, and the case may be sent to a grand jury later this month to decide whether charges are warranted.
"We are investigating this case to the fullest extent," said Lt. Richard Perez, a police spokesman. "If there's anybody who feels they have relevant information to contribute to the case, we still encourage people to call us, and we will certainly listen."
Since the shooting, friends and family have banded together to call for an arrest. They have held two candlelight vigils and set up a Web site in Cornejo's memory. They are offering a reward for information that could lead to the shooter's arrest.
Police sources have said the altercation began as Cornejo and a woman left a party at the complex about 4:30 a.m. and began arguing loudly. A neighbor told police he was disturbed by the noise, the sources said, and followed the pair to the courtyard to ensure the woman's safety. There, Cornejo challenged and attacked the neighbor, police sources said.
The neighbor was carrying a concealed handgun. The neighbor told police that as he and Cornejo scuffled, he feared for his safety and grabbed his gun, which discharged as the two struggled, police sources said. Cornejo was killed by a gunshot to the back.
Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. is awaiting final reports on the trajectory of the fatal wound to see whether it matches the neighbor's story, sources close to the investigation said. The prosecutor also is considering sending the case to a county grand jury, which meets the third Monday of every month, the sources said.
Menjivar said detectives have not updated family members on the case. She also said police did not notify her and other relatives of Cornejo's death, nor did they allow them to identify his body, as they requested.
"Maybe they thought that he was just anybody, just any other Latino killed . . . because he has a Spanish last name," Menjivar said.
But Perez said police have "open communication with this family." And sources said police typically do not need families to identify a body when the identity has been established, as in this case. They said police notified Cornejo's father of his death, as their policy requires.
Witnesses have told police that Cornejo instigated the fight with the neighbor but only the neighbor was carrying a gun. The witnesses also have told police that the shot was fired as Cornejo and the neighbor were wrestling and that the neighbor did not return to his apartment to retrieve a weapon.
Those close to Cornejo said they cannot imagine the young man -- who led his George Mason High School soccer team to a state championship in 2000 -- attacking anyone.
"I've seen fights on the soccer field and him walk away and be the peacekeeper," said Frank Spinello, one of Cornejo's former coaches.