Family, friends, and classmates gathered outside a relative’s apartment Wednesday night to remember 12-year-old Eric Gregory Brown III, who was killed in a drive-by shooting less than 24 hours earlier.
The boy was walking with a 14-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl when an unknown number of suspects in a car opened fire on them around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 2200 block of Lewis Avenue, according to police.
The gunfire fatally wounded Eric and injured one of the girls. The violence also unleashed a wave of grief across Long Beach. City officials and family members alike attended the vigil to pray and mourn.
“Eric was one of the most rambunctious, joyous kids,” said Mary Joseph, Eric’s grandaunt. “He brought so much in such a short time. He was so innocent. We’re gonna miss Eric so much. I believe God catches up with our loved ones. If I didn’t have God and his promises to lean on, I don’t know what I’d do.”
Many of Eric’s family and friends reiterated the sentiment, leaning on their faith in God to get them through the tragedy and depending on their faith for comfort in the wake of such senseless violence.
Police are still investigating a motive in the case, and they have not released any suspect information.
Authorities had not made any arrests by the time the vigil began Wednesday with prayers for comfort and healing for Eric’s mother, Angela Washington, who recently got married and had a baby, according to Sheila Hayes, who opened the vigil in prayer.
Many at the vigil were kids themselves: Eric’s classmates from Jackson Middle School, and his four young siblings as well as numerous young cousins.
“You need to stop killing these kids, these kids is innocent,” Erica Washington, Eric’s cousin said. “You need to put the guns down. He had kids he plays with here and they have to go to school and deal with this. Those kids don’t deserve it.”
Eric loved to play and dance, and he would help anyone out who asked for it, Erica Washington said.
“What’s good, y’all? I said what’s good, y’all? Hold on, hold on. I said, ‘What’s good, YouTube?'” Eric said to the camera in vlog-style footage shown to the Long Beach Post by Eric’s aunt, Marcedes Joseph.
He’s alone in the car, strapped in by his seatbelt, wearing a purple shirt and a large smile.
“That’s what I’ll remember, his beautiful smile,” said grandaunt Mary Joseph.
The family hopes coverage of the tragedy will call attention to the violence children face and prompt some kind of justice.
“I got calls that I was on the five o’clock news,” Cynthia Johnson, Eric’s grandma said. “I hope the shooters saw me. I mean, who kills kids?”
Representatives from Mayor Rex Richardson’s office attended the vigil, as did LBPD officers and violence prevention team members from the Health and Human Services Department.
Sixth District Councilwoman Suely Saro was in attendance.
“First and foremost, as a mother, I wanted to be here to show support for the family,” she said in an interview with the Long Beach Post. “He’s a child of Long Beach; he’s one of our children.”
Eighth District Councilman Al Austin also attended.
“It was on my heart to come out and support, to be with the community,” Austin said. “Any time a child is lost, particularly, in this way, gun violence, it’s unconscionable. It hits different.”
The family has started a GoFundMe page to help with funeral costs.