Thousands of mourners gathered at a Kentucky high school Monday night for a candlelight vigil honoring Trinity Gay, Olympic sprinter Tyson Gay’s 15-year-old daughter who was fatally shot early Sunday morning.
Speaking to the crowd on the athletic track of Lafayette High School, where the 34-year-old began his career, Gay pleaded with the community to “stop the nonsense and violence.”
“I want you guys to love each other, have peace, and protect each other,” Gay said, according to the Associated Press.
“I just want people to be safe and understand that we all have a life,” he continued, according to the Lexington Herald Leader. “We all have dreams, and when your fellow peer has a dream, it’s our job as brothers and sisters to come together and protect each other.”
“That’s what Trinity would have wanted,” Gay added. “Life is not a joke.”
The event began with the release of dozens of balloons into the night sky, the Herald Leader reports. Attendees wore pink and purple, said to be Trinity’s favorite colors.
Trinity’s mother, Shoshana Boyd, also was present. She and Gay embraced during the evening.
“As parents we do our best to raise our child the best we can,” Gay said, according to the Leader. “And sometimes things just happen. It’s out of our control. We only can look up and ask God why. Sometimes, we don’t get that answer.”
Gay said he was numb from crying over her death, the Leader reports.
Trinity was a track and field athlete herself at Lafayette High in Lexington, placing fourth in the 100-meter dash, fifth in the 200-meter dash and fourth in the 4×200-meter relay at Kentucky’s 3A meet this past May, according to the Associated Press.
Gay, who attended Lafayette and holds the state record in the 100-meter sprint from a 2001 race, was extremely close with his athletic daughter, according to multiple reports.
“I’m so confused,”he told LEX18 following Trinity’s death. “She was just here last week for fall break. It’s so crazy.”
An impromptu memorial for Trinity is taking shape on a fence of the school’s track, reports LEX18 — where students and community members have left cleats, flowers, balloons and photos of Trinity.
“With Trinity, when she was on the track, it was home,” 16-year-old teammate Jerome Brown told the AP.
Police believe Trinity was shot while in the crossfire of gunshots between two vehicles in the parking lot of a local restaurant near the University of Kentucky around 4 a.m. on Sunday, the Leader reports. She was struck in the neck and died at University of Kentucky Medical Center.
She was attending a cookout at the time. Police spokeswoman Brenna Angel said police don’t believe Trinity was in either of the vehicles involved, according to the Associated Press.
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Chazarae and D’markeo Taylor, 38 and 19 respectively, were taken into custody on Sunday and charged with wanton endangerment hours after Trinity was shot, according to a statement from the Lexington Police Department.
A third man, 21-year-old Dvonta Middlebrooks, was also arrested and charged with wanton endangerment along with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with the shooting.
All three men pleaded not guilty to Fayette District Judge Bruce T. Bell Monday.
“We are thankful and grateful for all of love, prayers, condolences, and food that has been sent,” the Gay family said in a statement issued Monday afternoon before the vigil and obtained by the Herald Leader.
It continued: “We are a close family. We have a strong relationship with God. We are deeply saddened for how this has affected not only our family but the lives of others that has lost a child a friend, or relative by these senseless act of violence. We also believe we in love and forgiveness. We are also praying for the families of the shooters because this too is a loss.”
A moment of silence was held Monday morning at the school in Trinity’s memory and grief counselors were brought in to help students with the loss.
The Superintendent of Fayette County Public Schools, Emmanuel Caulk, released a statement: “Our hearts are broken this morning over the loss of Trinity to this tragic and senseless act of violence. Please join us in keeping the Gay family close in thought and prayer and supporting the students, staff and families at Lafayette High during this unspeakably difficult time.”