At a vigil Saturday night outside Wooddale High School, Rickey Taylor remembered leaving the crime scene where his friend, Darrius Stewart, 19, was shot and killed by a Memphis police officer after a traffic stop last week.
Taylor, also 19, was one of the passengers in the vehicle that night, and he left the scene to go to Stewart’s mother’s house to “clear up the fact that he didn’t have a warrant,” he said in a text message to The Commercial Appeal.
“I came back and I saw all these police cars and crime scene, and I was in shock,” he recounted before kicking off the vigil. “It’s a life-changing experience.”
A group of Stewart’s friends organized the event, which drew about 50 friends and supporters.
They passed out purple, green and white balloons, which everyone let go together after some of those gathered had an opportunity to say a few words about Stewart.
Standing in front of candles arranged to spell out “RIP DEE” in front of the school, Stewart’s alma mater, LaKendria Lee recited a handwritten poem about her friend, fighting back tears.
“Darrius, I love you unconditionally and never, never stop. God always takes the best, so I know you’re at the top,” an excerpt of her poem read. “You’ve got your wings, now save me mine. Darrius Stewart is a life that will always shine.”
Before stepping in front of the crowd, Lee, who graduated with Stewart last year, talked about how she wants her friend to be remembered.
She said it’s been difficult to hear the news without people knowing who he really was.
“If you knew Darrius personally, you would know that he was a very sweet person. Loving. He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” she said.
“Seeing all these negative comments made me really think like, I need to … let people know that that’s not Darrius at all. Darrius was nowhere near a thug. I’ve been seeing plenty of posts about that.”
Lee and Taylor both said that if Stewart could see the vigil, he would know that he was loved and would be proud that his loved ones were taking action.
“We haven’t forgotten about him and won’t forget about him at all,” Lee said before the vigil.
“He lives within all of us. When these balloons release, he’s gonna know that he’s got a full team down here that’s not giving up.”