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Teen slain in Metro shooting remembered as teacher, visionary

Tanner Chamberlain

Jean Reid Norman

A collage of family photos was on display at Tanner Chamberlain’s funeral on Oct. 9. Chamberlain, a junior at Chaparral High School, was killed by police during a dispute at his home near Vegas Valley Drive and Nellis Boulevard.

Updated Friday, Oct. 9, 2009 | 4:18 p.m.

Video played at Chamberlain's funeral

Audio Clip

  • Chamberlain's teacher, David Winkler, speaks and reads Chamberlain's self-eulogy


Metro Police investigate after an officer fatally shot a teenage boy Tuesday night in the eastern Las Vegas Valley. Authorities said he held a knife to a woman's throat. Launch slideshow »

“Here rests a great soul, a man who moved forward throughout his eventful life and affected the lives and minds of many people.”

Tanner Chamberlain, 15, wrote those words about himself less than a month ago when he wrote a self-eulogy in a Chaparral High School creative writing class. Today his teacher, David Winkler, read those words at Chamberlain’s funeral.

Chamberlain died Sept. 29 in an officer-involved shooting outside his apartment on East Vegas Valley Drive. Police said he was fighting with his mother over a knife and had held it to her throat. Family members say the teen, who was both genius and bipolar, may have had a knife in his hand, but he was not a threat to his mother. A single shot killed Chamberlain.

Little was said about how Chamberlain died as almost 200 family members and friends celebrated his life and grieved their loss.

In his class eulogy, Chamberlain described himself as “teacher, creator, visionary and dear comrade to many people,” themes that were repeated by Winkler, the teen’s aunt and words written by his mother.

Two videos showed photos of the boy who had learned card tricks for his part as Oberon in the school production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and as they played, rows of teens chuckled through their tears at his antics.

Chamberlain was a multi-faceted person who loved Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and Ayn Rand, martial arts, nature and writing poetry, the Rev. Mary Bredlau said. He would try any new food at a restaurant, she said, to which the mourners laughed in agreement.

“He had a lot of fun and was a lot of fun,” she said.

Winkler said Chamberlain challenged him to be a better teacher.

“Being a massive intellect himself, he made you want to rise to your own occasion,” Winkler said. “I have a sense of him out there now scrutinizing and weighing each word I am saying and preparing a few words about how I can gussy it up later.”

Suzanne Oquendo, his aunt, said Chamberlain was the center of his mother’s life and the lives of four other families, including hers, who had adopted them as their own. Her own son died three months after Chamberlain was born, Oquendo said, and he visited her and her husband every summer.

“He was only 15 and had his whole life ahead of him,” she said. “He will have no prom, no car, no marriage, no children of his own.”

His mother, Evie Oquendo, in a remembrance read by Bredlau, said Chamberlain was her best friend and partner in life in addition to her son and asked, “Give me a sign. Let me feel your presence. I need you so much.”

Noting that Shakespeare was one of Chamberlain’s favorite authors, Winkler ended his comments with a quote from Hamlet:

“Good night sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”

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