A humble man with a loving family and a close-knit group of friends who was taken far too young.
That was the crushing sentiment on Fifth Street in Derby Friday evening where some 300 mourners paid their respects to the family of Shyheim Samuel during a prayer service in front of his house.
Those mourners included Derby Mayor Anita Dugatto, Second Ward Alderman Art Gerckens, Derby School Superintendent Matthew Conway and Derby Board of Education member Christine Robinson.
Samuel was killed in a car crash on Rimmon Street in Seymour April 11.
Seymour police said Samuel was one of five passengers in the car. Authorities are building a criminal case against the driver, whose name has not been released. Speed was a factor, police said.
Friday’s prayer service began inside New Beginnings Church of God on Fifth Street before the large crowd, balloons in hand, crossed Elizabeth Street and then Anson Street before stopping in front of the family’s house.
Click play on the video below to watch the procession.
Samuel’s mother and father and other immediate relatives surveyed the crowd while Pastor Dennis Marroquin led a prayer. The family’s loss is Derby’s loss, Marroquin said.
Click play to watch the pastor’s remarks.
Lacorya Jones was Samuel’s aunt.
When asked to describe his personality, she pointed to her T-shirt, with a large photo of Samuel imprinted on it.
“Right here,” she said, smiling.
There was Samuel, wearing a navy blue Nautica shirt, a hat and a smile breaking across his face. He was wearing glasses and the camera’s flash threw a glare on his eyes, but you could still read his young face — he was enjoying himself, without a care in the world, at least at that moment.
The photo was taken on his 20th birthday.
He died the next day.
The tragedy was massive, obviously, for Samuel’s mom and dad. Family members were, at times, overcome with emotion.
But they appreciated the support of the hundreds standing in front of them as the sun set on the intersection of Fifth and Anson streets.
Shannon Samuel, Shyheim’s father, emerged from the house at one point holding a poster-sized photo of his son.
“You want to see him? There he is,” he shouted to the crowd, who began to chant his son’s name.
It was a painful, but defiant moment. The family is in ruins, but they’re seeking God’s help to put the pieces back together.
Barbara Howard, Shyheim’s grandmother, understandably overcome with grief at times, repeated the theme.
“I would have rather God take me, then to take my grandson. But you know what? I’m going to make it. My children are going to make it. All of us are going to make it,” she said.