Student remembered for his faith, music and photography

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Friends of the Norfolk Christian student killed Friday say he was passionate about God, music and photography.

Norfolk police say James Brown killed 17-year-old Mark Rodriguez of Virginia Beach during a shooting rampage that also took the life of a Norfolk police officer. Rodriguez was driving his van home from a graduation ceremony at the time. Police say Rodriguez was not the intended target.

“I just finished recording a song with him,” said Ben Mekkes, a friend and classmate. “We just finished. We laid all the tracks I need from him before he passed.”

VIDEO: Ben Mekkes talks with WAVY’s Anne McNamara about Rodriguez

Mekkes met Rodriguez when he joined the sixth grade at Norfolk Christian. The two hit it off right away — mostly through music.

“He enjoyed all music, which was great because I had similar interests in it,” Mekkes said. “Music was how we connected and a way we relate.”

They also shared thoughts about their Christian faith. Mekkes says Rodriguez loved the Lord.

“Spiritually, we would talk a lot,” Mekkes said. “He just had such wisdom and understanding in our Christian views.”

Rodriguez wrote a blog post about heaven the month before he was murdered. In it, he explained the joys he thought Heaven would hold and his excitement to one day be there in the presence of God — never knowing that day would come so soon.

“It wells my eyes with tears of joy every now and then,” Mark wrote. “What a beautiful thought that one day I will be completely in the presence of God and will actually be able to feel the magnitude of His love and peace with no earthly fears or worries to distract me.”

“It was beautiful,” said Rachel Ford, a friend. “It was crazy to think someone could write that and a month later be taken to heaven. It’s like God said, ‘It’s your time to go and come home.’ It was just inspiring and very emotional.”

Ford said Rodriguez had plans to photograph her wedding in June.

“We took him to the church just a couple weeks ago,” she said. “That was the last time I saw him. It’s very sad, you know, that he can’t be there.”

Ford met Rodriguez through church friends and it was the faith they shared that sticks with her.

A memorial celebration service for Mark has been planned for Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Tabernacle Church in Norfolk.

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