MILWAUKEE — Emotional friends and family of Roy Thomas as well as community activists and leaders gathered at Sherman Park on Saturday for a vigil to honor and remember the teen's life. Thomas, known by his friends as Kash, was shot and killed at the Sherman Park basketball court on Thursday. He was just 17-years-old.
A gofundme has been set up to help Thomas' family.
"He was ready to go to college. He was a loving son, brother. He was positive, always encouraging. He wanted something out of life," said one of Thomas' family members Maria Hamilton. Hamilton lost her own son, Dontre, in an officer involved shooting in 2014.
Roy's aunt Malinda was also at the vigil. Speaking to the crowd, she said, "This is a process I would wish on nobody. Nobody deserves to bury a child."
Thomas' family is just one of several in Milwaukee grieving the loss of a child to gun violence this week.
"One is too many, seven is a crisis," said Reggie Moore with the Office of Violence Prevention. "To have that many kids in our city injured or killed as a result of gun violence is of grave concern to us and should be of grave concern to our entire city."
Overall, homicides in Milwaukee are nearly at the level they were at this same time last year. Milwaukee Police Department reports, as of April 22, that there have been 42 homicides so far in 2021. There were 43 at that same point in 2020, a year that ended up with a record number of homicides.
Community advocates and activists were also at the vigil for Thomas, calling for an end to the violence.
"We came a couple of weeks ago [to the park] and there's been a number of instances that happened before this, and again we sounded the alarm. And I feel like that young man was failed in that process again," said community activist Vaun Mayes.
He also calling on the city to invest more into the community.
"To even open the door to be able to have the conversation to see what is needed and what works. Not to just make up what they think works, that's never worked."
And as summer approaches, Mayes and other are trying to make sure programs are in place to prevent more violence.
Milwaukee County Board First Vice Chair Sequanna Taylor said the "Refund the Community MKE" program kicked off this week. "That's where we're bringing young people together to do positive things and give them different opportunities."
Moore said his office is working on more community outreach and is bringing back the "Heal the Hood" program this summer.
"When you build community and people are connected to each other, that is a protective factor against violence," Moore said.