A hundred people in bright orange and yellow shirts formed a circle in the Inner City Oil parking lot Wednesday morning, standing in sharp contrast against the gray sky.
They gathered to celebrate the life of Ira “Skinny” Brown, a 33-year-old employee of the gas station at 59th Street and Swope Parkway who was killed there Monday. Police believe he was the victim of a robbery.
Vychell Briscoe, Brown’s aunt, said he was a workaholic, dedicated to providing for his partner of eight years and their 3-year-old daughter.
“I’m still shocked about it,” she said. “He was just a great kid. Well-mannered with a beautiful smile.”
That grin is something Brown’s mother, Mickey, will miss the most.
“He was always smiling,” she said. “He was very loving.”
His mother said he was admired in their community and she wasn’t surprised that so many showed up to the vigil.
Relatives created T-shirts for the vigil in orange, his favorite color. On the shirts were pictures of him and his family, with the word “honey” at the bottom.
“I called him Honey because he was sweet as honey,” his mother said.
Others at the vigil wore bright yellow T-shirts for their group, Urban Rangers Corps, which seeks to help urban youth.
The vigil was organized in part by the neighboring Covenant Presbyterian Church, which uses space donated by the gas station for a garden. Produce from the garden is sold as a healthy option at the gas station.
Another organizer of the vigil was KC Mothers in Charge, a coalition of women who work to reduce violent crime in the city.
“This is not OK,” said Rosilyn Temple, the group’s founder. “Enough is enough. We’ve got to stop coming together in these circles at these vigils.”
Temple, who lives in the neighborhood, encouraged people to be brave and come forward, even if they were scared.
“We demand action,” she said over the loudspeaker.
No arrests have been made and there was no description of the shooter. Police continue to investigate.
At the end of the vigil, Brown’s family and friends released orange balloons. Covenant’s pastor, the Rev. Kirk Perucca, encouraged them to yell out whatever they wanted when they let go of their balloons.
Cries of “we love you,” “rest in peace” and “we will fight” rose out as the balloons floated away.