Friends and family of a 23-year-old man fatally shot last week gathered to memorialize him Thursday evening at the park behind his home.

Darius Johnson was found dead in his backyard Oct. 29 near North Acadian Thruway Park, where a ceremony to honor Johnson and his family was led by Keon Preston, who has organized a number of memorials for murder victims in Baton Rouge.

The group released red and blue star-shaped balloons into the sky, and they lit candles, participating in a moment of silence to remember Johnson, also known as “Big D,” the night before his funeral.

Preston told the group of 50 or so people to trust that God has a plan, even in the wake of Johnson’s death. Preston warned young people at the event to choose their friends wisely, and he asked those surrounding Johnson’s mother, Shevette Davis, to support her in the healing process.

Johnson was set to graduate in December from Virginia College, his sister Donyelle Davis said. He was one of seven children.

Most of those attending wore white T-shirts sporting a picture of Johnson, a design Johnson’s sister Sherika Davis put together.

Donyelle Davis said Thursday’s memorial was more than a one-night event. “It’s bigger than my brother,” she said. “It’s a bigger issue. This needs to not be common. It needs to not be something that happens every other weekend. I would really like my brother’s death to invoke change in some way.”

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