‘Broken, shattered’: Family remembers 22-year-old Boise man who died after shooting

·3 min read

When James “Matt” Cuellar was born, doctors told his family that he wouldn’t live past 24 hours.

Called “a miracle” by his older sister, he lived for 22 years, his life cut short by a fatal shooting.

The Boise native, who was born with a genetic disorder and throughout his life had multiple surgeries, died early Friday at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center after he was shot Jan. 15 at a Boise home, according to press releases from the Boise Police Department and Ada County Coroner’s Office.

Maribel Garcia, his sister, said the family believes the shooting happened after he stood up to a bully.

“He was a miracle from the moment he entered this world,” Garcia told the Idaho Statesman by phone. “He’s still a miracle to this day. He’s just been a light to all of us. Our family is just completely broken, shattered right now.”

At 4:10 a.m. last Saturday, Boise police officers responded to a call in the 2100 block of South Owyhee Street, in the Vista neighborhood, the Statesman previously reported. A firearm was found at the home.

Officers found Cuellar shot and a man at the scene. Police later identified the suspect as 31-year-old Jed Earls.

Earls has been charged with second-degree murder, according to a Friday news release from the Boise Police Department. Initially, he was charged with felony aggravated battery, with an enhancement for use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony.

Earls’ bail was previously set at $100,000, but the Ada County Sheriff’s Office inmate roster as of Friday states that he cannot post bail due to the murder charge. He is still in custody at the Ada County Jail, according to online records.

Boise Police: Suspect arrested after shooting in Vista, with victim in critical condition

Cuellar shot after ‘combative’ exchanges, sister says

Garcia said her brother was in the Vista neighborhood on Jan. 15 to hang with a few friends at Earls’ home. Garcia said he had been invited there by a friend, and it’s unclear whether Cuellar knew Earls.

She said Cuellar’s friend told her that Earls was “very combative” with Cuellar when he arrived. Earls allegedly called Cuellar a “bitch” and told him that he looked weird, she said.

Throughout the night, Cuellar’s friend stood up for him against Earls’ comments, Garcia said.

“People need to understand that people come in all sorts of shapes, colors, sizes and they’re beautiful either way — like that’s a human,” Garcia said. “That human has a family, has a mother, a father, a brother, a sister that loves them — and unfortunately with things like this, we lost our brother.”

Garcia said she plans to hold a vigil for her brother at 4 p.m. Sunday at 2100 S Owyhee St., where the shooting occurred. The event is open to the public.

She said Cuellar is survived by his grandparents and three other siblings.

“We think about bullying happening in like elementary and middle school drama, but it goes a lot deeper than that,” Garcia said. “We’re talking about two grown men here. People just need to do better.”

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