Community holds rally, vigil for teen fatally shot during birthday party in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Ind. – People are calling for a cease fire to put an end to violence. Friends, family and neighbors gathered Saturday in memory of Damon Johnson, 14, who was shot last Saturday. He died Friday from his injuries.

According to the teen's mother, Cheree Sampson, her son was at the Lions Club for his friend's birthday. She typically doesn't let her children go somewhere without her, but had done research to make sure adults would supervise the party.

Lawrence police said that around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 9, a fight broke out at the club, located along North Richardt Avenue. That's when two people opened fire. Five people between the ages of 11 and 14 were injured.

Johnson was rushed to the hospital and passed away Friday.

“They stole my baby’s life," said Sampson. "They stole my heart. They stole his little brother’s heart. All of my children’s hearts."

Police have arrested a 14-year-old who they believe is a suspect in the case. They also located a gun. They've asked people who may have videos or photos from the party to contact them to help find the second shooter. They estimate there were at least 75 people at the Lions Club when shots started going off.

“Whoever did this, please come forward," Sampson said. "If you know my baby or anything, please because my baby lost his life. He wasn’t even that type of person. He was just going to the party to have fun and come back home to his mom and brothers."

Sampson was one of more than 50 people to line up along the intersection of 25th and Hillsdale streets to plead with youth and criminals to cease fire. Joining in the effort were two IMPD officers.

“It’s a great thing when the whole community comes together," said Damon Collins, the executive director for 10,000 to Flight, an outreach street ministry targeting youth involved in drugs, gangs and other criminal activity. "We’ve come together to show support for this mother who lost her son. All these organizations have come together to say enough is enough and it’s time for change."

An estimated 200 people took part in a vigil for the teen Saturday night. It took place outside the Lions Club. Loved ones, even some of the teen's teachers, lit candles, released balloons and shared some of their fondest memories of the teen who was going to be an eighth grader at Belzer Middle School in the fall.

“I don’t really know how to wake up in the morning and not see him," said Andre Martin, Daron's older brother. "Every time you see him, he approaches you with a smile. You can see how many people loved him. He has so much love."

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