RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Family, friends and neighbors stood together with heavy hearts Saturday afternoon while grieving the loss of five people who were shot and killed in Raleigh earlier in the week.
“Our hearts are heavy, and we are saddened by the series of devastating events that took place in our community two days ago due to a senseless act of violence,” said Tabitha Smith, District 9 representative in the Hedingham community.
Smith took a moment to name each of the victims during a memorial service at the Willow Oak Clubhouse in the Hedingham neighborhood.
“These were our neighbors, just living their lives with plans for the future and had no idea that October 13 would be their last day with us,” Smith said.
Smith pointed to the tents that were on display that were intended to be used for a fall festival on Saturday.
Instead of a joyous weekend, Smith said events suddenly and tragically turned.
Speakers took a moment to say a few words about each victim:
- Raleigh Police Officer Gabriel Torres, 29, left behind a wife and two-year-old daughter. He was a dedicated law enforcement officer, husband and father, as well as a decorated Marine Corps veteran.
- Nicole Connors, 52, left behind her husband. Connors was a dog lover and caregiver who was known for her good heart and gentle spirit.
- Susan Karnatz, 49, left behind her husband and three sons. Karnatz was an avid runner who loved nature and looked forward to big plans and growing old with her husband.
- Mary Marshall, 34, was a Navy veteran. Marshall was two weeks away from celebrating her birthday and marrying her fiancé.
- James Thompson, 16, was a junior at Knightdale High School. One of Thompson’s teachers helped pay for supplies for the Saturday service.
Melissa and John Smith, who attended the Saturday memorial service, said their son went to school with Thompson.
They also said Connors was a close neighbor that they knew personally.
“It’s just going to be really different,” Melissa Smith said. “Even the air is not the same, but we’re not going to let this defeat us.”
The Smith family said as much as the Hedingham community is hurting, they believe coming together will help the neighborhood heal.
Later in the evening, people also gathered outside Beacon Baptist Church in Raleigh. Five candles were lit during the candlelight vigil to represent each victim.
Robyn Miller, a Hedingham neighbor, recalled hearing the sound of gunshots from that terrifying night.
“We knew something was really bad, but we didn’t know it was going to be this bad.” Miller said. “I think it’s definitely brought us together. I hate it to say that it’s been this to bring us together, but it just reminds you that life is short and to keep your loved ones close.”
Another vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday at First Alliance Church on 4400 Buffaloe Road.