Metro-East News

Candlelight vigil held for slain East St. Louis boy on his birthday

Johnnie Brim drew a big crowd Thursday evening on what would have been his 17th birthday. But there was no celebration.

Instead, those gathered to mourn Brim, who was shot to death on New Year’s Eve.

His mother, Lashonda Lee, led the candlelight vigil to remember her son.

“I know there will be some difficult days ahead of me,” Lee said. “All I can do is lean on prayer to help me make it. But, I know it will be hard.”

Brim was standing on a porch in the 1600 block of Wilfred with a friend Dec. 31 when an unknown person drove up in a dark-colored vehicle and fired several gunshots, striking Brim. He died later at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. The case remains unsolved. There are no identified suspects nor a motive for the shooting, according to East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Hubbard.

Friends and family members gathered at Lee’s apartment and in the parking lot in the 1600 block of Russell Ave. to offer condolences and to participate in a vigil to pay tribute to Brim and remember him on his birthday.

Lee, her husband Paetro Washington and Brim’s 14-year-old sister Johnneisha Brim, led the crowd to the shooting site. Many wore black hoodies with Brim’s picture on the back and the words “Rest In Peace Jay.”

When the crowd arrived at the site, they stopped. Some broke into song, singing gospel. Some led prayers and asked for strength and healing for Brim’s family.

One young man said: “This don’t make no sense.[sic] He was a good dude.”

The father, Johnnie Brim Sr., stood staring at the candles on the ground in front of him and clutching a big stuffed bear. He said his son called him while he was at work “about 20 minutes” before he was shot.

“I told him I had to make a delivery and then I would be there to pick him up,” Brim said.

“I am just numb. I have no words,” he added. “He was my little buddy. My son is gone.”

Lee, 39, said she had talked to Brim “just 20 minutes” before he was shot. She said she cautioned her son about the company he was around and told him to pray.

“I asked him if he heard me,” said Lee, and her son assured her he had.

Then Brim told her he was going to his friend Jayen’s house and would wait there for his father to pick him up.

After going to buy a pizza for a New Year’s party with her brother and his wife, Lee said she saw a police car with flashing lights behind her. After she moved over to the side, the police car continued on. Fearing that something could have happened to her son who was not at home, she followed the police car.

“I do not know why I was feeling the way I was, but I had that feeling,” Lee said.

After seeing her son’s friends, Lee asked them about Brim.

“His friend Jayen told me he had just got shot,” Lee said.

She made her way to an ambulance where he was laying inside. Paramedics were working.

“He tried to hang in there. They (hospital officials) said he fought, but they couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Lee said. “I always called him my right-hand man. He was special. Everyone loved to be around him. He wasn’t a perfect child.”

“He did some things I didn’t approve of. But, he was always on my son. He was not a bad child.”

Brim was her only son and her oldest child.

“His sister along with me and everyone who loved him, family and friends are taking his death hard,” Lee said. “He didn’t deserve to be shot and killed. My baby’s gone. For what? Why? This just hurts.”

Brim’s dream of becoming a professional basketball player was cut short with the bullets that took his life.

Artavius Stepney, 16, said he was going to miss Brim.

“He was a good friend, Stepney said.”

Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503

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