‘He was the most positive person.’ Fresno State student remembered by NAK fraternity

Luis Palma was more than just a fraternity brother. He was someone who brought inspiration and positivity to those around him.

Palma was a member of the Nu Alpha Kappa (NAK) Fraternity at Fresno State. He was a history major who tutored young students as part of the Teaching Fellow after school program. 

“He was the most positive person I’ve ever met,” said Eddie Garcia, social chair for NAK. “He always loved to make everyone laugh and had a good vibe.”

Palma was expected to graduate from Fresno State in the spring of 2020. 

But all that changed on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, when the driver of a vehicle he was in crashed into multiple cars, leaving Palma dead on the floorboard.

Palma was a passenger inside the vehicle that was driven by his friend, who allegedly was under the influence. The deadly crash happened around midnight at Fulton and Divisadero streets. When Fresno Police arrived, Palma was found with no pulse. Officials were able to regain a brief pulse before it faded. 

Palma was 23 years old. 

According to police, the driver, Francisco Cabrera, 24, was driving at a high rate of speed on Fulton when he crashed into at least five unoccupied vehicles.

“Palma was well on his way to graduating and only had one year left,” said Christopher Gonzalez, president of NAK.

Gonzalez and Palma had crossed into the fraternity at the same time in the spring of 2018. He smiled as he recollected Palma giving him random nicknames like ‘young dobie.’

Gonzalez remembered his fraternity brother as someone who didn’t take things too seriously when they first met. But then Palma started turning his life around by achieving better grades and volunteering for community service. 

“He just started to turn his life around ever since he joined the frat,” Gonzalez said.

Palma had been a tutor at Ayer Elementary for about three years. He came from humble beginnings and was someone relatable, as well as a mentor. His young students looked up to him because he understood where most of them came from. Gonzalez said Palma “was a true inspiration to the kids.”

Hector Torres, Palma’s little brother in the fraternity, said even though he had just met Palma about a year and a half ago, he felt like he had known him his whole life. 

“At the end of the day, he was just someone I could count on,” Torres said. “The person that always had my back.”

Torres had spoken with Palma just hours before his death. He remembers Palma sending him a Snapchat and then being woken up to multiple calls around 5:30 a.m. Saturday.

“I couldn’t believe it. I just broke down. It was really hard for me,” Torres said.

Garcia, Palma’s fraternity brother, also woke up to various missed calls around 8 a.m. on Saturday. He recalls breaking down once he received the news. 

“Ever since then, I haven’t been myself,” Garcia said. “I miss my boy, Yogi bear.”

Gonzalez said what pains him the most is the two little brothers Palma leaves behind. Palma’s brothers looked up to him very much. One of them is actually planning on joining NAK when he transfers from Fresno City College. 

One of the siblings had reached out to the fraternity looking for help organizing a GoFundMe to help raise money for Palma’s funeral. 

NAK set up an account with an initial goal of $8,000. That number was exceeded and reached $9,000 within two days. It continued to increase little by little and now has a total of $10,276 from 257 donors. 

“We made a really big connection to the family by supporting them through these hard times. I want to continue keeping that relationship with them and be a big brother to his little brother just how Palma was to me,” Torres said. 

NAK honored Palma with a vigil on campus the day he died. Gonzalez said a big crowd attended and even people who weren’t close to Palma were crying. 

“It meant a lot to see that he made an impact on these individuals,” Gonzalez said. 

The funeral service arrangements are unknown at this time. 

“If there’s one thing I could take from this is to not drink and drive,” Torres said. “Look at what happened to my brother. He wasn’t even driving. He didn’t deserve to leave this way.”

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