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Vigil held for fatally shot 21-year-old

A crowd hugs outside a Family Dollar
Scott Elmquist
VPM News
A group of Tyrek Brandon's friends mourn his loss during a prayer vigil Thursday.

Neighbors and family mourned Tyrek Brandon Thursday.

Updated March 20 at 4:20 p.m. to include a response from the Richmond Police Department received after publication Friday.

Family, friends and neighbors gathered for a prayer vigil Thursday night close to where Tyrek Brandon was fatally shot in the Southside Blackwell neighborhood on the evening of March 6. Brandon was 21 years old and graduated from George Wythe High School in 2020.

Gina Barrett, who used to live across the street from Brandon, spoke highly of him, saying “he had the best heart.”

“He loved his family so much, he so often talked about his family,” Barrett said. “I cannot believe that he’s gone and I cannot believe under what circumstances.”'

A person with their hands over their heart speaks into a microphone
Scott Elmquist
VPM News
Gina Barrett was a neighbor of Tyrek Brandon. She said "he had the best heart."

Brandon’s older sister Charnae Holmes said she was very close to her brother, who loved music and computer programming. She said he was still trying to figure out what he wanted to do for a career — but in the meantime was cutting grass for the city of Richmond, as well as single mothers because he liked helping women.

“I think in life, we're allowed to make mistakes. But the one thing that I loved and appreciated about Tyrek is that he was really trying to be on the right path, stay to himself and just focus on what he loved,” Holmes said.

She urged community members with information about what happened to her brother to come forward to police or others like Charles Willis — who organizes vigils for families who’ve lost loved ones to gun violence.

“My family is not the only family going through this,” Holmes said. She said a friend had heard about Brandon’s death from an Instagram page documenting those who’ve died from gun violence in the community.

A person wearing glasses speaks into a microphone
Scott Elmquist
VPM News
Brandon’s older sister Charnae Holmes speaks at the vigil. Holmes said she was very close to her brother, who loved music and computer programming.

“There's at least 12 other families around the same time going through the same thing that we're going through. And it really needs to stop … the violence has to stop because young children shouldn't be dying,” Holmes said. “Mothers shouldn't have to bury their sons before them.”

Delisa Coleman, another neighbor, said, “I’m scared for my sons out here in this community, in the city.” She has two teenagers — ages 14 and 15.

According to Richmond Public Schools, at least 17 students have been shot so far this school year. That’s according to the district’s unofficial count, and includes students who were fatally shot, as well as those who were shot and injured.

According to RPD, there were 5 murder victims under the age of 18 and 14 murder victims between the ages of 18-25 in 2022. So far this year, there have been no murder victims under 18 and 5 murder victims between 18-25 with three pending death investigations for people between 18-25.

This past weekend, 4 RPS students were shot including a 13-year-old Binford Middle School student who was killed in an accidental shooting. According to the district, the other three students were injured the same night in a separate gun violence incident.

Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras is recommending the installation of metal detectors at middle schools throughout the district. He’s expected to present on the topic at a Monday school board meeting, according to CBS 6. Four firearms have been discovered on school grounds already this school year.

The number of young people killed in firearm homicides has surged during the pandemic, with 40 people ages 25 and younger killed in Richmond in 2021, according to data from the state medical examiner’s office.

Rosie Hobron, statewide forensic epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, told VPM News it’s too soon to tell whether or not that upward trend is now changing. Figures for 2022 are still not final because multiple cases are pending.

In a recent statement, Mayor Levar Stoney said there are too many guns in the city — and urged residents to lock them up.

“If you own a gun, I am begging you, lock it up so that we can prevent unnecessary loss that will be felt for a lifetime,” Stoney said.

A variety of resources and guides are available to people who have suffered a death in their family because of gun violence. There are also a number of programs in the Richmond area that aim to prevent students and young people from becoming involved with guns.

Megan Pauly reports on early childhood and higher education news in Virginia
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