SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Dozens upon dozens piled into a gymnasium Wednesday evening for a memorial in honor of 19-year-old Benjamin Finney Jr., who was fatally shot Saturday while in a car somewhere near Hollywood at Jewella avenues.
Pastors speaking from a podium were quick to point out that the venue was a gym next to Morning Star Baptist Church, not the church itself.
But hands were held and heads were bowed all the same.
Finney's parents, Lawanda and Benjamin Finney Sr., organized the event and said they were blown away by the full bleachers.
"It's just amazing how well Ben was so loved and so many people came out and showed it today and I just want to say thank you. Thank you so much!" Lawanda Finney said.
Shreveport city leaders, including Mayor Ollie Tyler, added their voices to the chorus.
"I'm here today because I do care. I care about every single citizen in this city," she told the gathered crowd.
Finney is one of two men who were shot in the upper body while in that car.
The other man who was shot, 26-year-old Christopher Hayes, was taken to University Health for treatment of serious wounds that authorities said did not appear to be life-threatening.
No arrest has been made.
The sight of the crowds at the memorial Wednesday were enough to fill the heart of Finney's brother Braylon.
He said this is the best he's felt since that terrible night he learned of his brother's death.
"Better, better than I was the first day that I heard it."
Even amid the sorrow, all rallying cries at the memorial were not for anger but for prayer.
"Somebody is going to turn their life around from this, if it's only one person," Lawanda. Finney said.
By the end of the evening, the prayerful crowd joined together and laid their hands on Finney's family.
It was a message of love Finney's parents hope will spread before more children are lost.
"Don't ever hesitate to tell them you love them. Don't ever hesitate to give them a hug," Benjamin Finney Sr. said.
"If they're on the phone and they hang up, 'I love you.'
"If they're leaving the house, 'I love you,' even if you don't know where they're going.
"Just tell them: 'I love you.' You never know. It might be the last time you see them."
Finney's family members said they now are organizing his funeral and hope to hold it by Saturday.