CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) --Friends arrived by the dozen for 17-year-old Tre Walton's vigil at Manchester High School.
Faith and county leaders were weighing in Monday as Chesterfield County was forced to face up to a rare number of murders in just a week’s time. Family and friends gathered at the Manchester High School bus loop to remember 17-year-old Tre “Sleepy” Walton.
A vigil, some say, was upsetting for different reasons.
Some were able to let out the emotion, and sobbed, or cried out. Others choked back tears. Some stepped away to reflect quietly on a young life lost. "If ever our community needed God's help--it's now," said Bishop Gerald Glen.
Chesterfield police say 17-year-old Tre Walton a junior at Manchester was shot to death in front of the Genito Glen apartment where he stayed with a family friend.
"This tragedy is so horrific, " said Sheran Knight, Tre’s grandmother.
Knight says the accused triggerman 19-year-old Brandon Fordham was someone Tre called a “friend.” And friends arrived by the dozens Monday night. Some spelled out using candles “Rest in peace, sleepy,” with “SMG” underneath, which stands for “self-made gangster,” which upset a few family members.
"It was very disrespectful,” said Knight. “He was not a gang member, or affiliated with any gang.” "He's a sweet person who made me laugh,” said his cousin, Porscha Walton. “And always looked out for me. He shouldn't be portrayed as a gangster."
Tre’s death serves an exclamation point to the end of a violent week in Chesterfield: five murders in a short span. Bishop Glen says he can and will do more. "I think I'd be remiss and may be indicted for this, but this is also a spiritual battle,” said Glen. “I think the church can do more to teach moral values."
County leaders call the latest violence unusual and unpleasant. "Statistics, though, are a funny thing,” said Chesterfield County Administrator Jay Stegmaier. “You can have your head in the freezer and feet in the fire, but you still have to average them out. This is one of those times we are above average, but it will slow down.”
The wave of violence was too strong for Tre Walton, but his family hopes others are learning that it’s up to them to decide whether to sink or swim. “Make something of yourself,” said Knight. “Don't let these streets run your life."
Tre’s grandmother told us a lot of his younger family members looked to Tre as a source of laughter. They’re hoping those good memories can help them through what will certainly tough days, weeks, and months ahead.