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Vigil Draws Huge Crowd
Candles flickering in the chilly night air, Escalon residents turned out in droves Wednesday night for a vigil hosted at Community Center Park in honor of Joey Pinasco.

The 21-year-old was killed on Aug. 24, shot by CHP officers following a pursuit. His family put on the candlelight vigil, offering the community one more chance to come together in his memory.

"All of you who knew and loved Joey will agree that Joey was a compassionate, caring person, who loved life," his father, Joe Pinasco, read from a prepared statement to the crowd that filled the park. "He did not deserve this."

An investigation into the shooting is continuing, with the two veteran CHP officers involved on leave while the investigation is done. They were responding to a different call when they observed Pinasco's vehicle driving the opposite direction in excess of the posted speed limit. They pursued him and the chase ended just minutes from Pinasco's home during the early morning hours of Aug. 24, with the Escalon High graduate shot and killed when he reportedly drove his truck at the officers. Friends and family deny that allegation and believe the evidence will bear that out.

Wednesday's vigil, however, was less about the young man's death and more about his life, with dad Joe reminiscing about his son, growing up in Escalon, playing ball and enjoying life and good times with his friends.

"Joey truly was a people person; he always put his friends and family above all else," Pinasco said. "Everyone knew they could count on him to be there to lend a helping hand or to just be there to hang out. Joey had a passion for people; that is why he liked his PIT (Peer Interaction Team) class so much at Escalon High. He got to know people at a deeper, more personal level and felt like he could make a difference in people's lives."

The family also offered thanks for contributions that have been made for the Joey Pinasco Memorial Scholarship.

"This scholarship will help other kids in this community to have a chance at a future, and a way to keep Joey's memory alive at Escalon High School and in this community," Pinasco said.

A large banner with the words 'Justice for Joey' was set up near the vigil site and volunteers handed out candles and an information sheet contrasting a couple of different CHP traffic pursuits and the very different outcomes, highlighting their argument that Joey's death was not only tragic, but wrongful.

Many classmates from the Class of 2005 attended, as did dozens of other past and present EHS students. Former teachers were on hand as well, along with plenty of community residents that were there in support of the family.

Pinasco noted that he and his wife Toni celebrated 29 years of marriage in August and were touched by the card their son gave them and the thanks he offered for the example they set for him and the hope it gave him that he could find that kind of love and happiness.

"We grieve for our son who we dearly miss, who did not deserve this," Pinasco told the crowd. "We pray to God for justice for Joey ... he deserves that and so much more."

Following the prepared remarks, a slideshow set to Joey's favorite songs was shown, as those in the crowd alternately chuckled over the memories a photo evoked and shed a tear for a good friend lost.

Pinasco reiterated that the family could not have made it through this without the community support.

"This community has been over the top," he said. "We thank everybody from the bottom of our hearts ... they have come out and shown their love and compassion ... they're like angels."