COLUMBIA — Bryan Rankin weighed 5 pounds, 13 ounces, when he was born on Dec. 24, 1994. But he gained weight quickly, his mother, Laura Rankin, said. So his father nicknamed him Phatman, and it stuck for good.
"We used to argue about who was going to carry him in the store, he was so big," his father, Bryan Rankin, said.
They called him Phatman at school, at church and at home, his parents said. His nieces and nephews always asked for Uncle Phatman first at their grandparents' house.
That’s why Bryan's 4-year-old niece Teliaja Reimolds couldn’t help but notice the picture of him on her mother's shirt that read: "R.I.P. Bryan Keith Rankin, December 24, 1994 - April 7, 2012."
"She looked on my shirt today, and she asked me, 'Why is Phatman on your shirt?' and I just didn't say anything," Teliaja's mother and Bryan's sister, Brittany, said.
"He always came and picked my daughter up, and she loves him to no end."
Bryan Rankin, 17, died early Saturday morning, April 7, 2012. He was at a party in northeast Columbia when witnesses say 10 to 15 people approached his car. One teen punched him in the face, and another shot him in the stomach.
Bryan's brother, Brandon, and two friends drove him to MU Women’s and Children’s Hospital. He was transferred to University Hospital where he died about 4 a.m.
No one got to say goodbye.
"It sucks because there was nothing we could do about it. We tried our best to get him help, but we couldn’t do it," said Talia Murray, 16, who was in the car with Bryan on the way to the hospital. "He was like a brother to me."
Haleigh Warren, 16, had known Bryan since they were in seventh grade together at Gentry Middle School. Most times, Bryan wanted to bring either Brandon or Teliaja when they hung out together.
"He brought Teliaja to Bonkers with us once," Haleigh said. "Brandon was always with us, too."
Recently, members of the Rankin family gathered in the living room of their home, one of the few remaining at Columbia Regency mobile home park. Old pictures of Bryan's siblings hung on the wall next to his: twins Breanna and Brittany, now 20, and Brandon, 15.
Bryan’s mother said he was the only one who could always tell the twins apart: "Brandon never knew who they were. He'd be getting the wrong one in trouble ... (Bryan) always knew from day one."
One room, dubbed the music room, held traces of more joyous times. Bryan's drum set was still out facing his father's set, as if waiting for the cue to start the family jam session. Members of the family sometimes play at their church, Urban Empowerment. The twins sing, and Brandon plays the piano.
More pictures of Bryan's half-siblings lined the walls, Chanci Rankin, now 32 and living in Minnesota, Dominique Rankin, now 26 and living in Chicago, and Zachariah Peterson, now 24. They always treated each other like full siblings, Laura Rankin said.
Bryan's room is neat and orderly, except for two dents on the door from a ball tossed around the house. The bed is made. The floor is clean. The clothes in the closet are evenly spaced on the rack.
He was a big fan of Hollister, as was his brother and some of their friends. So much so that these five boys started calling themselves the HCO Boyz, short for Hollister Company Boys, about 2 1/2 years ago, Brandon said.
The name didn't go over well with their father.
"You run around here, and the first thing people thinking that you're a gang," Bryan Rankin said. "Phatman and Brandon both explained it to me that it's not like that."
"It was nothing gang-related," Brandon said. "People just thought it was."
Sitting in the living room with his family, Bryan's mother remembers several times when she and her husband took Bryan to the mall to buy clothes for school, mostly from Hollister.
The next day, they'd catch him giving away some of his clothes to friends. It was both heartwarming and frustrating to his parents. His generosity stunned them, but they weren't about to fund Bryan's friends' closets.
"(He would say), 'It's just a shirt. I'll get another one,'" his mother said.
"Who does that? Who does that kind of thing? Not no gang member I know," his father added.
"If anything, they'll kill you over a shirt. He's trying to give you his stuff," said Bryan's aunt Sheila, who drove five hours from Rock Island, Ill., the day he died to be with her brother’s family.
Since Bryan's death, the family has been stopped and comforted by people in the community. Bryan's family physician and eye doctor called them, too.
"He was loved. I didn't know so many people knew him like that," his father said.
Even when they went to see Bryan's body, his mother said a hospital employee was crying because her daughter had known him.
To honor their brother, who wanted to see the ocean this summer for the first time, three of his sisters are going to Miami.
"I just feel lost because he ain't got a soul no more," Breanna said. "His heart ain't beating. There ain't no blood flowing through his veins. He's just a cold body. And I want him to wake up, but he can't. And I wanted to say I loved him before he left, but I couldn't."
Bryan’s visitation will be from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Urban Empowerment church, 2409 N. Stadium Blvd. The service will follow from 3 to 4 p.m.