Funerals for Baker shooting victims draw hundreds

The funerals for two teens whose lives were cut short by gunfire at a private party in Baker drew close to a thousand mourners on Saturday, along with pleas for an end to gun violence.

Friends and family of Diontrey Claiborne, 18, and Kendal “Mone” Dorsey, 15, packed two small Baptist churches in Baton Rouge during separate but similar ceremonies where they celebrated and remembered the teens’ lives while also mourning their deaths.

“I think it was a wake-up call for a lot of these young people,” Cheryl Lafayette, 62, said, following services for Diontrey.

“They need to put the guns down and get themselves together.”

A third teen killed in the March 28 shooting at the Baker Civic Club, Marcell Franklin, 15, was laid to rest Friday.

Nakeydran L. Williams, the 16-year-old boy accused of killing them and wounding one other man sits in the East Baton Rouge Juvenile Detention Center on counts of murder, attempted murder and illegal use of a weapon.

At both churches, colorful, multipage programs outlining the services served as tearful reminders of those whose lives had been lost. Dozens of photos of the two teens, as well as powerful goodbye letters from friends and family filled the pages and made some people weep.

Kendal’s funeral was held at Promised Land Baptist Church on Plank Road. His mother, Nakesha Dorsey, wrote in her tribute to her son that “... my heart hurts all the time and it has never felt whole since the day he died.”

At Claiborne’s funeral, held at New Gideon Baptist Church on Balis Drive, classmates and family donned purple shirts, purple dresses, purple corsages and even purple sunglasses in honor of Claiborne’s favorite color at a ceremony filled with singing, praising and remembrance.

“It was a good feeling to send him away in that fashion,” Hewitt Hillard Jr., 33, said following the ceremony. He knew Claiborne through the band director at Baker, where Claiborne played the French horn.

Claiborne’s silver closed casket sat in front of the pulpit. To the left of the casket was a framed graduation photo of him in the red gown worn by graduates of Baker High School. Elaborate arrangements of red, yellow and white flowers bookended both the casket and photo.

After the reading of Bible verses — the well-known verse from Psalms 23 was read during both funerals — Endrick Claiborne, uncle of Diontrey Claiborne, stood in front of the packed house and said a few words about his nephew.

“I feel like I lost a son,” he said, before briefly being overcome with emotion and stepping back to compose himself. “I truly loved him.”

He remembered his nephew’s smile and drew some laughs from the crowd with anecdotes about Diontrey’s appetite.

The Rev. Thomas N. Bessix, pastor at New Gideon, closed out the service with a lengthy sermon, touching on gun violence and the loss of Christ in the communities.

“What do we do about our young people dying so early before they get a chance to live?” Bessix asked the mourners.

Bessix recently attended a gun violence prevention conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., along with officials from Newtown, Conn., and other communities ravaged by gun violence. He said they struggled to come up with an answer to the pervasive, nationwide problem.

The need to end gun violence was also at the forefront of Kendal’s funeral.

“Wake up and smell what’s cooking because today we know it’s this family,” Keon Preston with Stop the Violence told the audience while pointing at Kendal’s tearful mother, Nakesha Dorsey. “Tomorrow, we don’t know who it will be.”

Friends and family filled the small church to the rafters, forcing some to sit on other people’s laps and others to sit on the floor next to the casket.

Some teens mourning their friend’s death held their heads in their hands while others sat expressionless save for an occasional tear streaming down the sides of their faces during the emotionally charged service.

The family also opened the casket, allowing the mourners a final chance to say goodbye. Next to his casket sat a framed photo collage of Kendal in different poses. An ornate arrangement of white flowers rested atop the casket.

Michael Kennedy, a family friend, read a poem he wrote about Dorsey’s death and the Maya Angelou poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

“Though absent in the physical, his soul remains with us,” Kennedy said.

Dorsey’s uncle, Marvin Dorsey, talked about his nephew’s love of music and basketball.

“Mone had an impact on grown folks as well as kids,” Marvin Dorsey said.

Toward the end of the service, the Rev. Gayle Davis, of Truth Christian Assembly, called on those who did not have Jesus in their hearts to embrace the church — a call answered by dozens, most of them teens.

That moment “opened a lot of hearts,” Jeremy Phillips, 20, who has known the Dorsey family for most of his life, said following the service. “There’s a lot of killing going on and it’s all black folks that are doing it.”