The mother of a young man killed in a shooting outside a funeral two weeks ago told a crowd Thursday night her son was not a gang member.
“I myself as a mom never thought I’d be in this predicament,” Tracey Henderson said from the podium. “This was not an act of gang activity.”
Henderson's son, Carlos Henderson Jr., was one of two people killed outside of the Victory for the World Church near Stone Mountain on June 7.
Thursday night, the Henderson family was among the hundreds of people who filled the same church for the Summit on Youth Violence and candlelight vigil, an event arranged by DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.
"Now is not the time to point fingers or to place blame," Ellis told the crowd at the event. "Now is the time for us to come together and shoulder the responsibility of ending this epidemic.”
Several community and civic leaders participated in the free event, which about 500 people attended.
On June 7, as a funeral ended for 19-year-old homicide victim Ryan Devon Guider, words were exchanged and a fight started between two men who attended the service, according to police.
One of Guider's friends, 19-year-old Carlos Henderson Jr., was ambushed, DeKalb Public Safety Director William Miller told reporters the following day. Henderson got a gun, as did 28-year-old Delmetrius Heard, and both fired shots.
Investigators believe Henderson, who would have turned 20 on June 16, and Heard killed each other, Miller previously said. Two bystanders were also injured in the shooting.
Five days later, another man, 21-year-old Camenthia Antwan Dixon, was arrested for allegedly bringing a gun to Henderson's wake, according to police.
Rev. Ken Samuel, pastor of Victory for the World Church, attended Thursday night's event, along with other area church leaders. Miller was also present, along with Morehouse College president Rev. Dr. Robert Franklin and DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James.
The audience was filled with mostly adults, but many of the speakers had specific messages for youth in regards to violence.
“You don’t have to be afraid or think you’re a coward to walk away from a violent confrontation," Miller said. "It takes more courage to walk away.”
Corey Deadwyler, 18, of Lithonia, told the AJC he heard about the summit and wanted to attend, even though he didn't know any of those killed by recent violence.
"It was very changing," Deadwyler said after the candlelight vigil. "I heard more about what I can do. And it reminded me not to overlook certain people. "
Ellis said he hopes the event is the start of future collaboration between community groups to curb violence.
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