HAVERHILL — The hours that have passed since Jason Brillon drove his dying friend Luis Rodriguez to the hospital don't feel real.
"It's the worst feeling, hearing his last words," he said. "It feels like a movie."
Rodriguez, 21, died after he was shot Saturday morning on Washington Street, not far from his apartment, according to police. Yesterday Brillon recalled his friend as a caring and kind person — the type of guy everybody liked.
"He was the best kid you could ever meet. He'd give you the shirt off of his back," Brillon, a Lawrence resident, said yesterday. "He does everything for everybody."
Brillon, 31, who lived with Rodriguez before he moved to Haverhill, said Rodriguez loved to help others.
"We'd help a car broke down on the side of the highway," Brillon said. "He'd laugh and say 'We did our good deed for the day.'"
Rodriguez especially loved helping his grandmother, whom he adored.
"He told us the week before (he died) that he wanted to die before her because he loved her so much," Brillon said.
Rodriguez was an expectant father; the baby is due this summer, Brillon said. Rodriguez treated his friends' kids like they were his own. He didn't have a steady girlfriend and it was the pursuit of one that led him to the place he was shot.
"It's just really sad that a kid so good loses his life so early," he said. "For nothing. Because he liked a girl."
Brillon got a call from a woman who lived in the apartment house behind Rodriguez's at 3:45 a.m. Sunday. The woman said Rodriguez was drunk and had fallen down her stairs, Brillon said.
When he got to Haverhill, Brillon found Rodriguez at the bottom of a stairway so dark he had to use his cell phone to light the way.
"He was breathing funny," he said. "I cleaned his face. I didn't know he was shot. They told me he was drunk."
Nobody at the apartment ever told him Rodriguez had been shot, Brillon said. He never saw blood, even when he loaded Rodriguez into his truck. At first Brillon drove to his own brother's house in Haverhill, but nobody answered the door. His friend began to look and sound worse, so Brillon headed for the hospital.
When they got closer to Lawrence General Hospital, Rodriguez told Brillon what happened.
"He said, 'They shot me. I'm dying,'" Brillon said.
Brillon, unsure about what his friend had said, brought him inside the hospital, but Brillon had to head home because he hadn't been able to find a baby sitter. He called the hospital from his truck, and that's when he was told his friend had been shot. Brillon said he went back to talk to police.
He said he thought Rodriguez might have been "set up" and robbed. Rodriguez, who did some landscaping work, had been paid earlier in the day and had a large amount of cash with him, he said. When Brillon found him, all he had were his keys and cigarettes.
Rodriguez's friends and family were grateful to Haverhill police and state police for their quick work in the case, Brillon said. But he said they were all still hurting yesterday.
"Honestly, he was like my son. That's just the way it was," he said. "We were always together."
Friends and family are holding a benefit to raise money to cover the cost of Rodriguez's funeral. The benefit will be Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the J & B Lounge, 155 S. Union St., Lawrence.
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