Palmdale community remembers Gabriel Fernandez on what would've been his 16th birthday

PALMDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- Family and community members gathered in Palmdale to celebrate the life of Gabriel Fernandez, the boy who was tortured and killed by his mother and her boyfriend, on what would've been his 16th birthday.

On Saturday, flowers were piled up alongside birthday balloons at the tree outside his Palmdale apartment that was named after him.

"We came to celebrate Gabriel's life. So many people talk about his death, but we are here to celebrate his life and what Gabriel has done for everybody," said deputy district attorney Jon Hatami. "I can say, for me personally, he's made me a better prosecutor, a better father.

Gabriel's family, prosecutors, detectives, and even the paramedic who responded to that location, gathered to remember the innocent life cut short.

"For us, it was a little bit (of) closure to finally meet people that were there that night that were able to try and save Gabriel," said his cousin Olivia Rubio.

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This weekend marks seven years since parental child abuse took the life of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez. His memory has generated positive steps to save children. Those who knew Gabriel best talked to ABC7 about the boy.

Gabriel was just 8 years old when he was tortured to death by his mother and her boyfriend, who were both convicted for his murder.

His case has ignited worldwide calls for justice, especially within the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, which had received numerous complaints about the ongoing abuse.

His family and prosecutor on the case say they are committed to keeping his memory alive as a symbol of courage and change.

"So many people failed Gabriel. So many people. We have to make sure that doesn't happen again," Hatami said.

There is growing momentum for Gabriel's Law, which would allow an officer on an abuse call to quickly check DCFS history and alert the case worker.

Gabriel Fernandez: Years after Palmdale boy's death, DCFS struggles to improve child protection
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The death of child abuse victim Gabriel Fernandez in Palmdale has led to many changes in LA County's child-protection strategies, but problems still remain.

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