GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Following the city’s deadliest year on record, those most impacted by the violence came together for a candlelight vigil near Grand Rapids Thursday night.
Dozens of families that lost loved ones to violent crimes gathered outside the 63rd District Court for the somber ceremony hosted by Silent Observer and the Kent County Victim Witness Unit.
The event marks National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, recognizing those whose lives are impacted by the unprecedented violence in the community.
Nearly every person in attendance was grieving the loss of a loved one killed.
“The people that will attend tonight will all gather and meet … and they find comfort in that, seeing there’s other people that walk that path and are in their same shoes,” Silent Observer Executive Director Chris Cameron said.
The parents of Ashley Young, a 31-year-old Grand Rapids woman who was brutally murdered and dismembered in 2018, were among those in attendance.
“When I look around and see these mothers, I’m in awe of them because some of them have been able to move on and I just can’t,” Young’s mother said.
As Young’s family continues to seek this strength, they take comfort in knowing they’re not alone.
“We also are going through what all of the rest of the families are going through,” Young’s stepmother Dana Nelson said.
Nearby stood the family of another recent homicide victim, Deon Floyd.
“I know how these people are feeling out here,” Floyd’s grandmother Carrie McIntosh said. “It hurts so bad.”
Floyd was killed October 16, 2020.
Floyd’s death was one of 38 homicides in Grand Rapids during 2020—the city’s deadliest year on record.
“Last year in 2020, we issued over 10,000 criminal warrants,” Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said during his remarks at the vigil. “That’s unprecedented, we’ve never issued that many.”
Becker talked about the importance of victims’ rights and supporting those affected by violent crimes.
“We understand the impact that crime has on families, on friends, on every person that was impacted having something happen to them or a family member,” Becker said.
Several families at the vigil were grieving the loss of a loved killed years or even decades ago.
“Twenty years and it feels like it was yesterday,” Valerie Figures said about her two sons who were murdered in Grand Rapids two decades ago.
While many cases have been solved, others have grown cold.
“He died Aug. 9, 1999 and they still haven’t solved this case,” Jacqueline Kelly said about her son who was killed in Grand Rapids.
Jerline Riley, another mother of a Grand Rapids homicide victim, closed the vigil with a prayer, sending a powerful message encouraging people to speak up and stop the violence.
“Let not anyone leave here today the same,” Riley said. “This pain that you feel, don’t let it be passed on to anyone else. If you see someone doing something wrong, ask them to stop … ask the police to intercede.”
Anyone with information about any crime in Grand Rapids can submit tips anonymously through Silent Observer 616.774.2345.