It was the toughest three months of her life, but eventually, Clare Senchyna got herself out of bed in her San Francisco Bernal Heights home.
“My world just ended that day, in many ways,” said Senchyna. She paused, her voice wavering before she continued. “I continue living but it has changed drastically.”
She lost her only child, her son, Camilo Senchyna-Beltran, who was a week from turning 27 when he was shot and killed Dec. 7, 2014. His mother says the EMT had just finished paramedic school in the South Bay and was out for a rare night at a club at Bruno’s in the Mission when something happened outside. She says he’d been trying to break up a fight between a friend and a stranger when the stranger shot him point blank in the chest.
Senchyna quit her job as a nurse practitioner, something she’d been doing for 25 years.
“I haven’t gone back to work at SF General. I worked in urgent care for years and used to see people come in for infected wounds from gunshots or needed dressing changes,” she recalled. “I never thought that would happen to my son.”
Slowly, the San Francisco mother is channeling the anger and sadness into forward momentum: trying to help change the gun laws across the country. She joined “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America,” a group born out of the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre that killed children at Sandy Hook Elementary.
According to the most recent FBI data, firearms were used in 68 percent of murders and 41 percent of robberies in 2011.
Senchyna said she knows there are some responsible gun owners out there, but not nearly enough.
“I’m sure my son was killed with a stolen gun so obviously people aren’t being safe with their guns if that many can be stolen,” she said. “Personally, my objective is to decrease the number of guns. I feel like the young man, the 21-year-old who killed my son – it was probably easier for him to get a gun than a job or good education.”
The suspect in Camilo’s murder is a San Francisco resident, Taaron Bragg, in his early 20s. He’s behind bars for now, but Senchyna said that’s not her focus. She just wanted to save another parent from feeling the relentless pain that still plagues her every day.
“My world was destroyed when my son was killed. If I could help one other mother’s world not be destroyed, that’s the world to me.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP: There’s a fund under Camilo Senchyna-Beltran’s name at ScholarMatch that has already helped a young local man pay for his four-year expenses in college. Senchyna said this is another positive that helps to push her forward.