COLUMBIA — Bryan "Phatman" Rankin routinely picked up his brother Brandon, and the two would go shopping together when Rankin got his paycheck from working at McDonald's.
This upcoming check was going toward buying each brother a pair of black Vans shoes with red, yellow and green Jamaican stripes.
But Bryan, 17, isn't coming to pick up Brandon, 15, anymore.
Rankin was the victim of a fatal shooting early Saturday after returning to a party on West Sugar Tree Lane.
"He was my other half," Brandon said. "We were together all the time."
A rack of pants and multiple Hollister shirts still hang neatly in Bryan's closet.
"I can't bring myself to take them down," Bryan's father, Bryan Rankin Sr. said. "It would be like making his killing worse."
The Columbia Police Department said Bryan was a part of a gang called Hollister Company Boys, or HCO Boyz, but stopped short of calling the shooting gang-related. Family, friends and other students have said HCO Boyz were never a gang, just a group of friends who all wore clothes from Hollister.
Douglass High School sophomore Talia Murray, 16, said she was at the party that night and that Bryan had left to drop off some friends who were on curfew.
When he came back and stepped out of the car 10 to 15 people circled him, Murray said. She and a friend yelled for him to get back into the car. But Brandon Rankin was out and ready to protect his brother.
While sitting in the car, she said one teen punched Bryan Rankin in the face. Then another shot him in the stomach.
Murray said she was on the other side of Rankin’s car, trying to get in the back seat on the passenger side, when he was shot. With the driver's door still open, Brandon Rankin said his brother drove off a few feet, said "I can't drive," and passed out.
Brandon Rankin, Murray and another friend drove Bryan Rankin to Women's and Children's Hospital, missing a few turns along the way.
"I told them, 'We can't let him die. We can't let him die,'" Brandon said. As he was holding his brother's wound, Brandon Rankin helped carry him into the hospital. Then Brandon called his mother, Laura Rankin.
His parents were watching TV, awake later than normal, when Rankin called.
"I hoped it was a mistake," Bryan Rankin Sr. said.
Later that morning, Bryan Rankin was transferred to University Hospital, where he died from a gunshot wound. A 15-year-old was later arrested at a residence on Gregory Drive on suspicion of second-degree murder and armed criminal action.
Columbia police spokeswoman Jill Schlude said the incident is under investigation.
"Other than the fact that we know there was a party and a disturbance, we are not releasing any additional information at this time," she said.
The neighborhood of Gregory Heights, where the suspect was arrested, has been troubled recently.
Detective Tom O’Sullivan of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the area has been targeted for proactive patrols since early this year.
So far in 2012, there have been 53 calls for service in the neighborhood, according to the department’s daily incident log. Twelve calls were in response to disturbances, two regarded child abuse, two calls were for assault and there was one shots-fired report.
A lockdown at Rock Bridge High School on Monday morning might be related to the incident. The school was sealed for safety after a student received a threatening text message on a mobile phone.
The message "caused some alarm under the given circumstances," which led to the school's action, district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said.
"Tensions are high," Baumstark said. The lockdown was lifted shortly after 11 a.m.
The shooting this weekend notwithstanding, a lockdown is the usual protocol when a student is threatened, she said.
Baumstark could not confirm what the text message said, or whether the sender had been identified. Rankin had been a student at Rock Bridge until about seven months ago.
Bryan Rankin's half-brother, Zachariah Peterson, recently faced a second-degree murder conviction, and Peterson had feared retaliation. But Rankin's family does not believe the shooting had anything to do with that.
Rankin was listed as the CEO of HCO Boyz on his Facebook page, which is consistent with Columbia Police Department information, Schlude said.
Friends dispute the gang relationship. Katie Wilson, 16, said she knows most of the teens who identify as HCO Boyz and was at the party that night. They are a group of 10 or so friends who always wore Hollister clothing and were given the nickname, she said.
Timmy Midgyett, 17, who lives on the 5900 block of Gregory Heights where the suspect was arrested, also said the teens in HCO Boyz were connected only because of their clothing.
"HCO Boyz is a group," Brandon Rankin said. "It's nothing gang-related. People just thought it was."
Bryan's aunt Sheila Rankin agrees.
"The only gang he was in was this gang right here. Family, that's it."
"At least he had his last moments with me," Brandon Rankin said. "But I don't want any last moments. I want my brother back."
Jon McClure and Teresa Klassen contributed to this story.