FORT WAYNE – Five-year-old Damion Wheeler Jr. didn’t want to get up off the floor.
Crouched on his knees, he held a plastic, battery-powered candle up to a picture of his father, Damion Wheeler. On the little boy’s shirt also is a picture of his late father with the message “Solve My Daddy’s Case.”
The boy’s father was killed when he was shot to death on a June afternoon along Lillie Street in 2006. Damion Wheeler’s mother said there were 75 to 100 people who saw the homicide, but no charges have been filed in the case.
Denise Wheeler drives almost 600 miles every year to attend a vigil that honors her son and the victims of violent crimes.
On Tuesday, more than 100 people gathered inside the Allen County Courthouse as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
“All we’ve got is our voice,” Denise Wheeler said.
There have been more than 700 homicide victims in Fort Wayne, according to Lynnice Hamilton, director of the Fort Wayne Police Department’s Victim Assistance.
Advocates read the names of those killed in the last three years.
One of those was Justin L. Bush.
Bush, 23, died after he was shot last Halloween night at Mookie’s Bar & Grill at 4104 N. Clinton St. No one has been charged in his killing.
“He was killed in a place where there were 300 people,” his mother, Venus Bush, said in a speech to other victims. “I’m sure somebody saw something. We have to encourage those people to step up and after they step up we need the police department to keep them safe.”
While Damion Wheeler Jr. sat nearby illuminating his father’s picture, tears streamed down his grandmother’s face.
“We always make sure we have pictures in the house so he knows that’s his dad,” Denise Wheeler said.
Jessica Crozier of Victim Assistance said honoring those who were killed is important to their loved ones.
“It shows that we still care,” she said.
After the names of those killed in the city in the past three years were read, audience members were able to say the names of others killed in Fort Wayne. One by one, the names echoed back and forth across the Courthouse lobby.
“Gone but not forgotten,” Hamilton concluded.