By MAGGIE KIELY
Christopher Hutchson's friends called him "Big E" and said the 17-year-old reminded them of a big, goofy teddy bear.
That's why it's so hard to understand what happened to him, his friends said.
Hutchson died from a gunshot wound in a stranger's backyard Sunday, Bryan police said.
Hutchson was a sophomore who had recently enrolled in the flexible high school program housed at Lamar Alternative High School. His mother is a bus driver for the Bryan school district.
Friends said Hutchson was not a "gangbanger." They described him as someone who was always trying to make people laugh.
One of his friends, an 18-year old from Bryan who didn't want to release his name for safety reasons, said he spent the hours leading up to Hutchson's death with the teenager.
He and Hutchson were "hanging out" at his house earlier in the night, then went to a park to meet another friend, he said.
When their friend didn't show up, he said, the two decided to walk through downtown to "meet some girls."
After it was clear there wasn't much going on, Hutchson's friend said, the two walked eastward out of downtown, passing by a local bar on the way.
"Someone yelled at us," the 18-year-old said. "I told 'E' to keep walking, not to worry about it."
But the guy kept yelling, which eventually upset him and Hutchson, he said.
They confronted the yelling man and the three exchanged words, then punches, the friend said. The man was knocked down, Hutchson's friend said, and the two teenagers took off.
"I knew we needed to get off the streets, so we tried to call people for a ride," he said, adding that they couldn't find a ride and continued running.
When they got to a church near where the shooting occurred, Hutchson's friend said, two vehicles drove up. Four or five men got out and attacked Hutchson and his friend.
Eventually the two were able to get away, and ran toward another friend's house, he said. When they saw the cars coming back, they began running again and ended up jumping several fences before ending up in the backyard on West 17th Street where 'Big E' was shot and killed, Hutchson's friend recalled.
The guys chasing them caught up and began hitting Hutchson and his friend again, he said.
"I thought we were going to get jumped and that they would leave it at that," he said. "I tried to get up, but was getting kicked in the face and the guy standing in front of me was holding a gun."
He said he heard four or five shots and then saw his attackers taking off.
"I knew something was wrong with E because they just burnt off like that," he said.
Scared and unable to see because it was dark, he said he ran to his friend's house nearby and the two began searching for Hutchson.
Eventually, the third friend, who didn't disclose his name, found Hutchson in the corner of the backyard. He was barely breathing, he said.
"I saw where he got shot and started putting pressure on that spot," he said.
But it was too late. He heard his friend take his last breath, he said. He uttered no last words.
Soon after, police arrived.
"I don't want E to be another cold case," his friend said. "I don't want him to just be another someone who has lost his life over something stupid."
Another friend, Dylan Park, 18, of Bryan, said he had been best friends with Hutchson for about seven years and isn't going to let his friend's life be forgotten.
"It makes me think about what I should do to change and to make my life better because I've got to live for him too now," he said. "You never think out of everybody in Bryan that this would happen to not only someone you know, but someone you've shared blood, tears and sweat with."
Park said he and Hutchson trained together at a local martial arts gym and that it was weird not to have him there on Monday.
Darrell Rittman, 30, of Bryan, said he has owned United Kombat Academy off Finfeather Road for about a year and that when Hutchson started attending his mixed martial arts studio about seven months ago, the teenager quickly became a dedicated student and friend.
"The kid rode his bike to my place every day," he said. "He had nothing and was happy all the time. This kid was an inspiration for me."
When he first starting training, Hutchson would show up in his pants because he didn't have practice shorts, Rittman said. But other students quickly came to know Big E and didn't think twice about loaning him shorts or helping him out otherwise, he said.
The MMA instructor said he didn't charge Hutchson to use his gym, and "just liked to have him around."
"He tried to give me $4 once, he told me, 'I want to help keep the lights on,'" Rittman said. "But I knew that he could use that $4 and told him to keep it. He was just a good kid."
It was not clear Monday if or when funeral services would be held.