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Luis Flores-Bravo’s family and friends gathered in front of the teen’s large gravesite. Despite the sweltering heat Saturday, they held hands and prayed for nearly an hour.
They also shed many tears mourning the 16-year-old’s loss. He was gunned down a year ago in an attempted robbery at the Speedway convenience store on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.
“We were there to remind each other, although it’s been a year, it still hurts and will continue to hurt,” said Luis’ aunt, Rachel Mondragón.
After a months-long investigation, Wilson police arrested and charged seven teens in connection to Luis’ death last year. Those charged with first-degree murder and attempted robbery are 18-year-olds Jahkil Jones, Keydrick R. Parker, Shyheim Smiles and Garry De’Andre Harris; 17-year-old Corey Williams Jr.; and 16-year-old Shaiheim R. Murray, all of Wilson. A 15-year-old was also charged with first-degree murder and attempted robbery.
Mondragón said family members are grateful to the Wilson Police Department and the officers and detectives who have worked on Luis’ case.
“They have considered our pain and we thank them for their hard work and dedication in this case,” she said.
She said the family is waiting on the defendants’ court dates and anticipates a trial date to be set soon.
“I know it’s going to be harder than we thought,” she said about going through the judicial process. “We just want to leave it in God’s hands.”
‘GOD HAS BEEN A REFUGE’
Police responded to the July 20, 2018 shooting call around 9:34 p.m. Luis was found in the 1700 block of Freeman Street — not too far from his home. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
While police haven’t revealed a motive or the circumstances surrounding the teen’s death, his family has said he was an innocent bystander who would often walk to the store to buy a snack or soda and return to his Freeman Street home where he lived with his parents.
“Last year was the hardest year we had to deal with,” Mondragón said. But Luis’ family and friends have found strength in God and love for each other to get them through some of the darkest of times.
“God has been a refuge for their pain,” she said referring to Luis’ parents, Manaces and Sylvia. “For us as a family, it’s been our faith in God that helps us through it.”
‘HE WILL ALWAYS LIVE IN OUR HEARTS’
Luis’ gravestone is unique. Two large pictures of the teen are adorned on both sides with an inscription of the Bible verse 1 Peter 1:3 in Spanish.
“His father (Manaces) is the one that got the gravestone for his son,” Mondragón said. “He wanted a gravesite just as special as he was.”
Luis was a student at Beddingfield High School and a Junior ROTC cadet who had plans to go into the military. He also left behind a daughter, Melody, who is now 2.
While he was a young father, he worked to provide for Melody when he was alive.
“His daughter doesn’t have a father anymore,” his aunt said.
Mondragón said while Luis’ life was cut short due to senseless violence, the family is grateful for the time he was with them.
“Those 16 years were amazing for us,” she said.
As family members sort through their grief, they have also had a lot of love and support from the community. Luis’ family clings to the happy times they shared with the teen who loved to help others and had a smile that could brighten up a room.
“He will always live in our hearts and memory forever,” Mondragón said.