(This story originally appeared in the Bradenton Herald)
BRADENTON — Dianica Coke wants to know why someone would kill her older brother, Justin Fabien.
“I never imagined us having to do things like this for my brother,” the 14-year-old said Friday night as she stood near a candlelight vigil in Fabien’s honor. “Mom planned on taking him school shopping — not shopping for his funeral.”
At 12:27 a.m. Monday, Bradenton police received a 911 call of gunfire in the 1200 block of 21th Street East in Bradenton and arrived moments later to find 16-year-old Fabien lying on the sidewalk, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. The teen was declared dead when paramedics arrived at 12:36 a.m.
Jamari Lamon Murray-Barnes, 17, surrendered to authorities early Thursday. Detectives with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Investigative Unit obtained a warrant for his arrest Tuesday, charging first-degree murder. They had been unable to locate him prior to his surrender.
At the vigil held in the area where Fabien died, Coke and several girls arranged tealight candles to spell out his nickname “FABOO.” Flowers adorned the spot where Fabien’s blood pooled after being shot.
“It’s very hard and that was my only oldest brother,” Coke said. “That was the only one I was depending on and now he gone. Who am I supposed to depend on?”
Phyllis Mays, 63, was one of more than 60 people who
attended the vigil to pay their respects. The retired business owner said her grandson and Fabien were best friends for years.
“My question is — as a community and as a parent, a grandparent, lover of children — what can we do to understand the youth better, to find out what could make someone do these things?” Mays asked. “I just can’t imagine even. … if it was self-defense, I just can’t imagine going home, eating, sleeping as if I did not take a life. … What can we do? I would really like to know and I would really want to be part of a solution to all of this.”
Mays said there’s just too many young people dying — too many victims and perpetrators.
“They’re all somebody’s child,” she said.
Coke began the vigil with a prayer and expressed gratitude for those who came to pay their respects to her brother. Her voice trailed off and she stopped.
“I can’t do it. I can’t do it,” Coke said, burying her head in a friend’s arm.
The crowd fell silent until Mearlina Parhm-Smith began reciting the prayer “Our Father.”
“Right now we don’t really want to be sad,” the 44-year-old said. “Right now it’s time to rejoice because we know Justin is in a better place.”
Parhm-Smith mentioned a video she just saw on Fabien’s Facebook page of him lip syncing a song.
“I don’t know what the song was and all of a sudden he tore his shirt open,” she said with a laugh. “That was like the funniest thing to me. … see, everybody laughing. I know you got something fun to talk about.”
A row of young men in the front chuckled.
The mood took on a somber tone when Tytiki Washington spoke up. The 40-year-old Bradenton resident lost her son, Dejuan Williams, in 2009. He was 18.
“How many of ya’ll want to raise your kids, raise your grandkids — see your grandkids raised? If y’all want to see that, y’all got to want better in life,” Washington said. “There’s so much more out there and the only way y’all gonna get it is if y’all put your mind to it.”
Talvon Ackerman, 20, stood nearby staring ahead. He was friends with Fabien for about two years.
“It’s kind of sad to know that one of your own ain’t here with you no more,” the Palmetto resident said. “I’m just here to show respect and let him know that I ain’t forget about him.”