Rhonda Billoups said she still finds herself catching glimpses of her son in the faces of strangers.
“Every time I see a young man walking, they don’t even have to resemble him, I’ll think ‘Darius,’ ” Billoups said. “It’s just for a second before I realize it’s not him.
“I just miss his spirit, his infectious personality and his zest for life.”
One year ago Sunday, Billoups’ 17-year-old son, Darius Augustus, was killed on the Mississippi River levee downtown when gunfire erupted in a large crowd of people.
Police investigators said Augustus, who had just left the 13th Gate Haunted House, was an innocent bystander, shot in the chest as he tried to flee the gunfire.
No arrests have been made in his shooting.
In a memorial service Sunday that was both joyous and solemn, about 20 loved ones gathered to tell their favorite memories of Augustus and share what they miss since he was killed by a stray bullet.
“He was a special, special kid,” said Eric Billoups, Augustus’ uncle. “He just made everyone around him happy.”
The focus of Sunday’s event was to remember the good times as relatives lit candles in Augustus’ memory and looked over old pictures.
Several of Augustus’ friends spoke at the memorial, telling stories of teenage antics and remembering Augustus as a giving, joyous person.
Porchia Cotton, 17, said she and Augustus were best friends and “stuck like glue” to each other since meeting in the sixth grade at Capitol Middle School.
Cotton is now in her senior year, preparing for prom, graduation and all that will come after that, she said.
But always in the back of her mind is the realization that Augustus isn’t here to share those experiences with her.
“It’s very different without him,” Cotton said. “I miss his smile and his laugh. I still go to the levee sometimes just to keep his memory alive.”
Rhonda Billoups said not knowing who killed her son made the past year even harder.
“There’s just no justice,” she said. “We have to let go, but it’s just so disheartening.”
At least three groups of people were on the levee that night, police have said.
One group fired several shots into the air, and a second group — who thought they were being targeted — fired back, police have said.
Augustus, his cousins and friends were in a third group and were not involved, police said.
Having that many witnesses makes the lack of arrests all the more frustrating, said Pamela Duncan, Darius Augustus’ aunt.
“All these people, I don’t know if they’re afraid, but I just pray someone comes forth,” Duncan said. “It’s the not knowing that’s so hard. We can’t bring this baby back, but someone needs to answer for it.”
Anyone with information on Augustus’ shooting is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867.