Alvin "A.J." Jones remembers Kavader McKibben as a star basketball player, skilled at every position on the court, and one of the warmest and most giving persons he's ever known. The 21-year-old liquor store clerk who was shot and killed during a Friday night armed robbery could always make Jones laugh.
Le'Bryan Wilkerson, another longtime pal of McKibben's, smiles between tears.
"He was goofy, he was playful," Wilkerson says. "It's just sad."
More than 200 Atlantans, including Mayor-elect Kasim Reed, gathered on Monday night outside the Moreland Package liquor store where McKibben was killed to remember his life and urge each other to unite as a community to help end violent crime.
Men and women from across the city lit candles, sang songs, and offered words of support to the victim's family. Outside the liquor store, mourners piled teddy bears on top of teddy bears in remembrance of McKibben. Two Rough Riders jerseys the amateur hoops team of which McKibben was a member rested on top.
In a city that's been ravaged by crime, McKibben's killing struck a similar nerve as the January 2009 murder of Standard bartender John Henderson. On Friday night, police say, McKibben was gunned down by 19-year-old suspect Terrone Anthony after he demanded cash from the liquor store's register. Shaun Yu, the owner of the liquor store, heard his employee's call for help and then opened fire on Anthony, shooting him in the arm and leg. Police apprehended Anthony one block away. No charges have been filed against Yu.
After a soft rendition of "Amazing Grace," family members including McKibben's mother, father, brother and cousins asked why their son was killed and what the community could do to prevent another tragedy.
"God, we need help right now," said Lorenzo Hagins as he led the crowd in prayer. "If we never needed you before, God, we need you right now. God, most of all we need you to stop the violence in the City of Atlanta."
Trina McKibben, the victim's mother, pleaded with her son's peers and neighbors to make the right decisions in their lives to avoid crime and violence.
"I've been in this community a long time," she said, holding back tears. "I've seen babies grow up. And I always try to give them encouraging words to stay positive and do good things with their lives."
Newly elected officials, including Atlanta City Councilman-elect Alex Wan and state Rep.-elect Simone Bell, D-Atlanta, were in attendance to show support. Mayor-elect Reed, who stood next to McKibben's mother for the duration of the vigil, said neighbors, communities and the city must work together to prevent such crimes from happening again. Reed told reporters at the vigil that he'd name an interim police chief within 48 hours.
"I want you to know that I'm gonna wake up every single day making sure this stops," Reed told the family and crowd. "Not tomorrow, but right here, right now. Our police are working very hard right now. But we have to do more. We have to heal and protect one another as a community. We have to look out for our neighbors. Government cannot solve this alone. But government has to be your partner."
Kyle Keyser of Atlantans Together Against Crime, who along with South Atlantans for Neighborhood Development helped organize the vigil, called the gathering a tragic reminder that the city still has ground to cover in dealing with crime.
Police have charged Anthony, who is currently recovering from gunshot wounds at Grady Hospital, with McKibben's murder. He'll be transferred to Fulton County Jail when his condition improves. Zone 6 Commander Major Renee Propes told CL Monday night that another alleged perpetrator remains at large and is "steps away" from being apprehended. "We're pretty confident we'll have him in jail in no time."
"I wish I could've taken that bullet for my son," Trina McKibben said. "I can't change that. I can't bring him back. I just want justice for my child. That's all I want. And I want the violence to stop."
(Photos by Joeff Davis)
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