Overwhelmed with grief as she described the stray bullet that pierced her car and struck her only son near the heart, Felicia Young found herself unable to continue.
Words of encouragement from the audience, who could see their own struggles in hers, buoyed Young enough to voice the question that continues to plague her eight months after her son’s death: “Why? Why my baby?”
“The sad thing about this situation is I don’t even know who did that to my baby,” Young said of the August shooting that killed 7-year-old Terrez Coleman as they rode home from a family reunion. The bullet also grazed one of Young’s twin daughters. No arrest has been made in the case.
Coleman was one of 70 homicide victims whose lives and memories were honored Wednesday at the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office’s 9th annual Evening of Remembrance, held at BREC Independence Park Theater.
The names of the victims, who died between Jan. 1, 2014, and March 15 of this year, were read aloud during a candlelight ceremony punctuated by quiet sobs and the gentle voices of young children, some of whom were not yet born when the list gathered its first name.
District Attorney Hillar Moore said while it is often a gunshot that kills, the “second wound” that follows is the devastation of the family left behind, their neighborhood and the wider community.
Healing that second wound is the focus of two new support groups started this month for the victims and families of violent crimes and homicides, said Jane Wood, coordinator of the Sheriff’s Office Crime Victims Division.
The Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with the DA and Baton Rouge Police, organized a support group called Voices of Hope for people who have lost someone to homicide, Wood said. The group will meet on alternating Tuesdays beginning April 28, with counseling provided by the Crisis Intervention Center.
The District Attorney’s Office also started a support group earlier this month for victims of violent crimes, said Kristen Raby, victim assistance coordinator for the DA’s Office. The weekly closed-group sessions, which are facilitated by counselors, run for 10 weeks, Raby said. Another group will begin in June.
Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said the support groups are an example of the agencies’ commitment to protecting and strengthening the rights of crime victims.
“By working together, we can protect crime victims and build a society that respects the value of every human life,” Gautreaux said.
Gautreaux called on the community to do its part by teaching children about drugs and crime and letting law enforcement know when problems arise.
“We are all made smaller by every loss,” Police Chief Carl Dabadie said. “The notion that violence is acceptable … that’s just not who we are.”