Last night's candlelight vigil in memory of Damion Blaney was attended by a few hundred people from this close-knit God fearing and God loving community on the west-end of Charleston West Virginia in front of the Glenwood Elementary School.
Young Damion, a bright eighth grader from Stonewall Jackson Middle School was killed Monday evening after being struck in the back of the head by a stray bullet
allegedly fired from the gun of 16 year old teenager who was involved in an altercation just outside the fence of the school yard.
Police officers have confirmed Damion Blaney was not part of the dispute on the street that involved people who he did not know nor did they know of him prior to recklessly firing the murder weapon
The spirit of the Lord was with these mourners as they praised Damion and his mother Tia Mitchell and offered prayer to help in healing the family and this community of children and adults who are devastated by the needless death of this boy.
Tim Walton, Damion's football coach for a few years on the Western Generals offered to share his thoughts about the years he has known Damion and his mother Tia Mitchell.
Damion was a great kid, he was easy to work with on the field, a very coachable kid. Damion had a strong will and goals in football and in school. He worked hard at practice and played his heart in ever game, always striving to become better. Walton and members of the team brought Damion's football jersey to give to his mother this evening.
Walton who was attending the candlelight vigil with his son James spoke with another boy who approached the group. Walton introduced me and said the other teen was with Damion at the time of the shooting. Joe Chaney who was grazed by a bullet on the shoulder during the incident Monday night wandered around the crowd as if he was searching for his best friend Damion. He told the Coach and I he "was going to be okay" As his empty eyes searched the faces in the crowd for his buddy while tears streamed done his face. Mr. Walton said "it will take these boys a lifetime to heal and that he would be available to assist them in anyway needed."
These same sentiments were heard throughout the crowd of mourners gathered in the early evening in preparation for the night's vigil. Well over 200 children from the school and as many adults in the neighborhood had gathered, most in tears, with many wearing shirts dedicated to Damion.
The front of the shirts says guns and the back says 'What's The Point? The group of young teenage girls said they had formed a new group at the Stonewall Jackson Middle School called "Gun Crimes Aren't Cool" dedicated to honoring Damion's memory.
One lady from the neighborhood Priscilla Raimo said they do have a problem with crime in that area where she lives. Ms Raimo says she stays on top of things, if she sees trouble or faces that do not belong there she is the first one to call Charleston City Police Department who respond quickly. When they are too busy to get there quick enough Raimo says she goes out herself till the police arrive so anyone that's not from the neighborhood will usually leave when they are told police have been called.
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, based out of Charlotte, NC who have been in the state since the mine explosion
and disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine of April 5,2010 contacted my office today to meet with Damion's mother Tia Mitchell last evening. This group of eight who are just a small part of the 3500 volunteers who minister to people and families in need in the United States and across the world came to the event tonight where they met with the grieving mother Tia Mitchell and presented her with a Bible from the Billy Graham national organization.
After leading the group of over 300 in prayer Mr. Kenneth Brown and Jack Dowling completed their presentation of the Holy Bible. The gathered community where religion and love of God is strong was then led in the hymn Amazing Grace by one of Tia Mitchell's friends.
Carol Johnson-Cyrus another parent present said "these kids just don't feel it is safe to talk to parents, they just don't know how to do it. We are going to have to stick with these kids and help them through this and to teach them better how to keep themselves safe when playing on the streets, now that spring weather has arrived and how to communicate without fear to their parents, family and school officials."
Pastor Hill of The Father's House Church Ministry was in the crowd offering prayer and love and hope to these neighborhood kids. The Rev. Matthew Watts, director of the Hope Community Development Corp. and pastor at Grace Bible Church, said "Damion had spent some time in the development program's mentoring group. He said he did not know Damion personally but said the boy always was respectful to others when he saw him around the west-end neighborhood." The Rev Dr. Joyce Connolly was also present offering love and prayer to many of the stunned mourners who still can't believe this has happened to one of their promising young teens who had a wonderful future ahead of him.
Tominka Edwards of Charleston who attends church at the Abundant Life Church with Tia Mitchell, Damion and his grandmother offered much wisdom to the crowd of youth as the procession moved from inside the school yard a 100 feet away to the spot where Damion was killed. Tamika Edwards said
We got to get the Lord back into these kids lives. I been through everything bad that a person could do told these kids the dangers of drugs and guns and shared her life experiences with them hoping they would hear her. She has vowed to keep coming back out and being a face on the street of support for the youth and to show the criminals and drug dealers will not be tolerate. Our family and friends and church members are pulling together fast andshe hopes Tia and these Kids will heal but says she isnt sure so she is putting it Gods hands and that if God save us nobody can, we have save our own children, our own flesh and blood and every other child on the street as parents will got to look out for each others kids, and thats the way we do it here on the west end."
Also in attendance was Meshea Poore local attorney and a delegate with the WV Legislature. She was highly praised by Edwards and others for her help and assistance to the people of thise small community in her district. The detectives and police officers of the Charleston Police Department were at the vigil as they continue their investigtion into the shooting. They have no new information to release at this time following the arrest of 16 year teen who has been charged with murder and are continuing to investigate this tragedy.
Tia Mitchell, Damions mother left the candlelight vigil earlier then expected overwhelmed with grief from the death of her only child. The funeral services are set for Saturday at 1pm for Damion Blaney at the Grace Bible Church. The healing of this community has only just begun, this is a crushing blow to these young people and it will take years to recover from the loss of one of the most likeable young men of this dangerous area of the City of Charleston. This beautiful, sweet young boys future was robbed from him and his mother Tia Monday night when those fateful stray bullets struck young Damion in the back of head putting out the flame of his life, just as it was beginning to shine brightly.