Candlelight vigil for Andrew Russell, 21, in FW, TX

Friends and relatives hugged Cynthia Williams ahead of the candlelight vigil for her son, Andrew Russell, 21, on Friday.

Russell, who suffered from epilepsy and frequent seizures, was gunned down Monday morning after knocking on a neighbor’s door. In an interview with KDFW-TV earlier in the week, Williams said Russell was likely out of his house and in need of help.

On Friday, Williams said that by putting his son to bed on Sunday night, Russell was still in post-critical condition, which means the brain is “hot” after a seizure and needs to calm down. Williams said the process takes time and can take days to calm down. For those unfamiliar with the signs of epilepsy, she said the post-critical condition can appear as if the person is under the influence of a substance.

Williams said she was very pro-guns, but didn’t support the shot until she assessed the situation.

“You don’t have to shoot someone down, you have to take a moment and analyze the situation before you shoot,” she said.

Since the shooting, Williams has said his goal has been to raise awareness about epilepsy.

Williams said Russell suffered his first seizure as a senior at Chisholm Trail High School, but had been epileptic his entire life without the family realizing it. When he was younger, Russell had times where he seemed to space out, but in reality, they were baby fits, she said.

Epileptic seizures can be triggered by dehydration, flashing lights or, in the case of Russell’s first seizure, stress, Williams said.

Six months ago, Russell underwent surgery for an implant that would work for the brain like a pacemaker does for the heart, Williams said. Every few minutes it would go off to prevent another seizure, she said. The device worked for a while, but then stopped working, Williams said, and the family was still trying to adjust the levels where they needed to be for ultimate efficiency.

“Andrew was getting ready to go to college next year because he had this implant,” she said. “He was moving forward and his quality of life was headed in the right direction. “

The family has started a GoFundMe to raise money for funeral expenses, and any additional funds will go to the Texas Epilepsy Foundation. Shirts honoring Russell were also available at the vigil, with the proceeds also going to the foundation.

Russell’s older brother Trey said his brother didn’t know any strangers and always made a point of getting to know someone new.

One of his fondest memories of Russell was when they were around 6 and 7 years old. As the boys ran down the street towards a friend’s house, Trey said he vividly remembered seeing his brother run with a big smile on his face.

“Andrew was always happy,” he said. “The only time he wasn’t happy was every time you interrupted one of his games and that’s it. At all other times he was a very happy and kind guy.

Since Monday, Trey has said it’s hard not to fall for it, but he’s looked after and remains a rock to his mom while making sure everyone is okay.

During the vigil, Trey said a prayer asking for justice for Russell.

Holding a lit candle, Williams told people gathered in a circle outside Saint Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Fort Worth that the only way she could get over the loss of her son was to support them.

After some of Russell’s friends shared their memories of him, Williams mentioned that November was National Epilepsy Awareness Month and encouraged those gathered to help raise awareness of the disease.

Williams said the family was pushing for funds to create an annual scholarship that would go to a high school graduate with epilepsy and help fund his tuition.

“Don’t let him die in vain,” she said. “What happened, we have to turn it into something positive, we have to make a difference.”

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Megan Cardona is a late-breaking Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter. She graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2020, where she worked at the campus newspaper, The Shorthorn, for two years. She is passionate about accurate and easy to understand reports.

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