Fireworks lit the sky in Washington Friday night as friends, family and neighbors of Darnell “Cuddy” Brown gathered in the parking lot of Family Dollar to say goodbye.
Stuffed animals, “I love you” notes, a Bible, liquor bottles and dozens of candles covered the sidewalk in front of the Highland Avenue store, where Darnell was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon in front of his family. “RWG (Rest With God) Cuddy,” and “Long Live Cuddy” were etched into the brick on the front of the building.
Pastor Lance Whitlock with Legacy Church in Washington led the crowd that filled the parking lot in reciting the Lord’s Prayer before they released hundreds of red and black balloons.
“We come together to unify one city, one people together,” Whitlock said. “During times like these we need to lean on each other, be there for each other. We can all get through it together.”
Police are still searching for the shooter, who’s believed to be Zackory James Sadler, 36, of Donora.
According to the criminal complaint, Darnell, 41, was walking back to his car at 3:43 p.m. when he was shot in the head. Darnell’s fiancée, Leeann Group, one of his children and his five stepchildren – all under the age of 10 – were in the vehicle and witnessed the shooting.
The suspect fled the scene and has not been located. City police were stationed nearby during the vigil.
Darnell, who left behind five sons and a daughter, was remembered by them and the rest of his family Friday evening. It’s not the first time they’ve experienced loss. Darnell’s brother, Troy Lamont Brown, died from a gunshot wound in 2009. He was 23.
Suzanne Kelley, a Washington activist whose nonprofit raises awareness about violent crimes, spoke during the vigil, calling for an end to gun violence and drug activity in the community.
“All that has to stop right now,” she said. “What else are we going to take? How many more are we going to have to do this for? It needs to stop today.”
Darnell’s friends and neighbors raised more than $5,900 on the GoFundMe fundraising platform for his funeral expenses and showered his Facebook account with love, memories and prayers. Dozens showed up Friday to honor his memory.
“I’ve been doing this for seven years,” Kelley said. “I need the whole community to join together, and let’s get it right and stop burying our loved ones. It affects all of us, not just the family. It affects the whole community. Cuddy was loved by everybody.”