Aquilio Reducindo may only be 11 years old, but he has deep memories of his neighbors and friends.
Muhannad Adam Tairab, known to Aquilio as Adam, stuck up for him when there was a bully on the school bus.
"He’d say, ‘Leave him alone,’ " Aquilio tearfully recalled outside the home at 808 E. Lewis St., where Tairab, 17, and two other young men, Mohamedtaha Omar, 23 and Adam Kamel Mekki, 20, were found slain late in the afternoon of Feb. 24. According to a police report, the men had been shot multiple times.
On Saturday, Heal the Land, a local group of diverse religions, stood in front of the home around noon to conduct a healing service, a service that has been repeated many times in Fort Wayne.
The service typically follows an act of violence a week or two after it has occurred, said Janet Mitchell, a member of Heal the Land and a professional mediator.
Religion was initially thought to be a possible motive because the young men had emigrated from Africa’s eastern Sahel region, a predominantly Muslim area, said Pat Driscoll of Heal the Land. Coming to the United States gave them the opportunity to escape the genocide of their homeland in the Sudan and Chad.
However, only Omar and Tairab were Muslims. Mekki was a Christian. Fort Wayne law enforcement officials have ruled out religion as a factor in their killings.
At the service, about a dozen members of Heal the Land prayed, read psalms and quoted from Micah. They passed out laminated copies of "Amazing Grace," a song that has become traditional at funerals, and read a tribute to the slain men.
Aquilio, while tears streamed down his face, gave testimony to his friends. When Heal the Land members fanned out to invite neighbors to the ceremony held outside the gates of the home on the snow-encrusted front sidewalk, it was Aquilio’s family who accepted the invitation.
"I’ve known these people since I was little," Aquilio said, joined by his father, Margarito Losano Cruz, his mother, Maria, brother Luis and sister Cielo.
"He sounds like a wonderful person who stood up for you," said Kimberly Koczan-Flory, a pastor associated with Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren.
"He always cared for others," Aquilio responded.
Cruz said his family moved there nine years ago when the house was bursting with children and activity. During the last year, it had become quieter without as many children in and out.
Friday at a news conference at the Islamic Center of Fort Wayne, it was announced that a $10,000 reward has been offered for information that leads to the apprehension of those responsible for the slayings.
Saturday at the service, others occasionally walked by the home that now appears abandoned. There are boarded-up windows, rotting wooden eaves and sagging, faded curtains at the windows. The home across the street has even more plywood over the windows and several were open to the elements.
James Roger, walking with his son Myquan, said he knew the family but didn’t have any idea why it happened.
"It’s just ignorance," Roger said.