COLUMBIA — As daylight faded, the candles were lit. The light illuminated armfuls of flowers and glinted off tears.
Friends, family and neighbors gathered Tuesday evening to hold a candlelit vigil for a young man who is remembered for always having a smile on his face.
DeAudre Orlando Johnson, 17, of Columbia died at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at University Hospital of a gunshot wound to his upper body after he was shot Monday evening at Trinity and Switzler streets near Douglass Park.
Johnson, a student at Douglass High School, had just gotten his driver's permit and was looking forward to attending college.
"Why did this happen to DeAudre?" Johnson's cousin James Dudley Jr. asked the vigil attendees. "A 17-year-old little boy who just wanted to be a basketball player and an engineer."
Earlier Tuesday, Latisha Stroer, a spokewoman for the Columbia Police Department, said Johnson was not the intended target. Witnesses said the man who did the shooting was in an argument with someone who was standing next to the teen.
"I don't want to be like this ever again," DeAudre's mother, Resa Jenkins*, said. "That was my baby — and he never did nothing."
James Dudley Jr. called for the community to work together to make a change.
"If you don't love each other, if you don't help each other, then you're not helping your community," he said. "Step up and help."
Anthony T. Graves, 19, was arrested at 1003 Jefferson St. in connection with the incident. He was charged Tuesday with second-degree murder and armed criminal action. His bond is set at $1 million.
"It hurts that he took mine," Resa Dudley said. "But I forgive him, because that's what God would want me to do."
The vigil included a moment of silence to remember not only the individuals killed in the community in recent years, but also the families with loved ones currently in prison.
James Dudley Jr. said he will always remember Johnson as his baby, because he said Johnson reminded him so much of himself.
"A mind full of dreams, and he always wanted to be someone," James Dudley Jr. said.
Johnson was well known by staff and other teenagers at the Armory Sports & Recreation Center, where he could often be found playing video games and shooting hoops on the basketball court.
"We lost one of our regulars," said Camren Cross of Columbia Parks and Recreation.
"He could shoot those 3-pointers, no problem," said Johnson's cousin Nic Collins, who played basketball with him at the Armory.
Among the many other postings on the Armory's bulletin board, a color print showing Johnson wearing an Indian headdress reads "Chief of the Game Room," a title he earned through a video game competition at one of the center's lock-ins. The flier challenges the next lock-in attendees to dethrone him.
Collins said he's not sure how anyone will challenge Johnson to that title now.
Columbia police began conducting proactive patrols on Feb. 20, a response to a rash of shootings and shots-fired incidents that began in late January. Since then, Johnson's is the second shooting death in the past two weeks.
On March 4, Lamont Sargent, 39, was killed when he was shot in his home in the 300 block of North Eighth Street. Larrell Montez Banks, 18, was arrested in connection with the shooting.
Police confirmed that Sargent's and Johnson's deaths were the city's first two homicides of 2012.