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Loved ones remember Brexi as a friend and leader at memorial service

A digital screen showing an artist's picture of a young girl in a red cap and gown stands next to flowers and candles at the front of a church.
Emily Shiroff
A screen positioned at the front of St. Anthony of Padua Church shows an artist's rendering of a graduation portrait of Brexialee Torres-Ortiz, at a memorial for the 11-year-old who was killed in a drive-by shooting, Jan. 22, 2023.

About 150 people turned out Sunday to pay tribute to11-year-old Brexialee Torres-Ortiz, who was shot and killed in a drive-by while walking home from a Syracuse convenience store last week. The dozens of classmates, teachers, friends and loved ones engaged in song and prayer at Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church to honor the middle school honors student they knew as Brexi.

Classmate Greyshaliz Davio said Brexi was known for supporting her friends.

"When they used to bully me and stuff, she always stood up for me and everything," Davio said. "Like, she helped mad people. The school isn’t even the same anymore without her.”

Brexi attended Syracuse STEM at Blodgett Middle School, where officials say she was a leader among her fellow students. Brexi’s former principal James Nieves said she was a standout student even in elementary school when she was at Seymour Dual Language Academy.

“The things that separated her from other students was that positivity and smile and willing to help others," Nieves said.

He said she showed a love of tennis, dance, science and aiding those around her.

"She was always that student that you always see her doing something with another student, like helping," he said.

Others at the service recalled her as respectful and enthusiastically positive in a poem using the letters of her name. A group of attendees recited it in Spanish and English, both the languages that Brexi spoke fluently.

Brexi’s killer still has not been found. Police have said the shooting was targeting a 19-year-old at the store who was also hit, but survived. Authorities are asking the public to share any information that could help their investigation and are encouraging people to submit tips anonymously through their website, app and texting tool.

Funeral services for Brexi will be held later this week.