Hours after police had cleared the crime scene, family and friends of 13-year-old Khalil Malik Cousart walked to the spot where the rising eighth-grader had been fatally shot early Tuesday.
They placed flowers, a colorful pinwheel and a sign that read RIP Khalil by a broken white picket fence bordering a church at the west Charlotte intersection. They struggled to understand the circumstances that led police to charge Khalils 16-year-old friend, Damien Wright, with his murder.
It just seems surreal, like Im dreaming or something, said Khalils older brother, Kyan Orr. I wish someone would wake me up.
Khalils death is at least the fourth fatal shooting of a teen in Charlotte this year the third in the last five weeks.
Wright was charged with first-degree murder and was being held Tuesday in the Mecklenburg jail without bond.
According to police, a young male waved down a passing motorist around 1 a.m. Tuesday at the corner of Tuckaseegee Road and Parkway Avenue and said someone had been shot. The motorist called police, and responding officers said they found Khalil on the ground, suffering from a gunshot wound.
Paramedics took him to Carolinas Medical Center, where the teen was soon pronounced dead.
Police have not described what led up to the gunshots, saying only that Khalil and Wright knew each other and that the shooting was not random.
Tiarra Dukes, 17, who lives across the street, said she heard multiple gunshots around 1 a.m. She knew both teens, but didnt know what might have led to the shooting.
Everybody in the neighborhood hangs out all the time, she said.
Relatives said Wright was friends with one of Khalils older brothers. Orr said that on Monday, Khalil had planned to spend the night with Wrights younger brother. Wrights home is several blocks from the scene of the shooting. Orr said he doesnt know what Khalil and Wright were doing at the time of the incident.
Another of Khalils relatives said she heard the younger boy was shot accidentally after Wright tried to shoot at someone else.
Records show Wright, a rising freshman at West Charlotte High, was arrested in January on misdemeanor drug offenses. Those charges are pending.
In April, he was charged with possession of a gun by a minor, as well as possession of a gun with the serial number removed, a felony. But those charges were dismissed.
Greg Jarrell lives in a home near the crime scene thats used by Hyaets, a faith-based organization ministering to people in low-income areas in Charlotte. Jarrell said the group reaches out to youth in summer and has after-school activities. Khalil had participated for four years, he said.
He was a fantastic young guy, Jarrell said, describing Khalil as a bright young man who was often seen riding his bicycle through the neighborhood talking to people.
Jarrell said his two children adored Khalil. He was like a part of the family, he said.
On his Facebook page, Khalil wrote, Im just a swagged up boy tryin to survive and make it to (that) big college.
Orr said his brother was outgoing and had many friends. He described him as an all-around kid who also liked music and had earned As and Bs at Ashley Park school in west Charlotte.
Cant nobody ever duplicate him. There will always be one Khalil, Orr said.
Khalil liked sports, including football and basketball, and was looking forward to playing with a team at the Naomi Drenan Recreation Center in the coming months, said Bonita Walker, an aunt.
Khalils shooting came just three months after a man he considered family was killed, relatives said.
Nakio Cousart, 32, was killed in May during a spate of shootings in the Grier Heights neighborhood in southeast Charlotte, where Khalils family previously lived. Nakio Cousart was found dead inside a car on Zircon Street, and a 34-year-old man was later arrested and charged with killing him.
Bonita Walker said she and the family are grieving but trying to stay strong for each other.
But she wishes there were more activities in the community for youth, and said she worried it is too easy for young people to get guns.
I just want more stuff done with the children, she said. We just have to reach out to the children and let them know that we love them.
Two teens were shot to death last month, and no arrests have been announced in the cases.
Hawa Gabiddon, 17, was found shot to death July 10 in a northern Charlotte park. Authorities later said she was pregnant. On July 15, 18-year-old Kevin Washington was shot and killed after a party in northeast Charlotte.
Earlier this year, John Kempson, 17, was shot to death during an argument with two young men in southwest Charlotte. A 19-year-old man was charged with murder in the March case.
Numbers released by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police do not show an overall uptick in homicides involving young people.
In 2010, eight Charlotte homicide victims were younger than age 17, police said. In 2011, six homicide victims were younger than age 17. Three of those were killed in child abuse cases, police have said.
Police said the investigation into Tuesdays shooting is ongoing and ask anyone with information to call detectives at 704-432-TIPS or Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.
Staff researcher Maria David contributed.