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Once a Panther always a Panther

DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON / The Brookhaven community comes together at the student-run prayer rally Wednesday night at the Brookhaven High School.

DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON / The Brookhaven community comes together at the student-run prayer rally Wednesday night at the Brookhaven High School.

Hundreds of people filled the Brookhaven High School stadium but no sounds were made. Students, faculty, staff, parents, community members and public officials sat together in an effort to show support for the Panther family. It was evident that Jevonta Dickey and Shaquan Richardson had touch the lives of the Brookhaven community and their passing left a deep pain in the hearts of hundreds. A cloud hung over the Ole Brook stadium.

Dickey and Richardson were killed on Union Street in Brookhaven Tuesday night by a drunk driver. Their truck was demolished by 18-year-old Charles W. Acy’s Hummer. BHS students are trying to cope with the sudden and shocking incident that claimed the lives of the two senior football players.

The prayer rally began with words from BHS football coach Tommy Clopton whose words of remorse echoed through the stands. The only noise that escaped were the muffled sniffs and sobs of attendees.

“(Brookhaven) is a community that wraps its arm around you and is a community that lifts you up when you’re struggling,” Clopton said. “Our kids have gone through a tough time, and these families are going through the toughest time.”

After Clopton spoke, he climbed the steps of the stands to pray with his team. Students surrounded the players in an attempt to comfort and unite with the heartbroken teammates of Richardson and Dickey.

The football players then walked to the field to pray as a team. The stadium remained silent. A soft murmur floated to the stands as the crowd watched a wounded team. One player could be heard saying, “We are still Ole Brook.” The prayer ended with the Panther war cry as the players united and screamed their call “We are Ole Brook.” The community stood and applauded. As players returned to sit, Clopton hugged every single one of his men.

Smaller prayer groups began to form in the stands; students holding students. The mood was heavy and the community unity was overwhelming and intense.

Students said the halls of BHS yesterday were filled with tears. Everyone was deeply upset at the untimely death of the loved football players.

“They were good kids, always smiling always positive,” said BHS principal David Martin. “Inside of school outside of school, didn’t matter they were two good guys.”

It was a solemn day at BHS. A dark shadow hung over the heads of students, faculty, staff and administration.

“We just want to be sure that the family knows we are here to do what little we can,” said Superintendent Ben Cox. “At times like this it’s hard to know what to do or how to reach out to people, but we want them to know that their sons were an important part of not just the high school but the entire school district.”

In addition to Wednesday night’s prayer rally, the support of the Brookhaven community has been splashed across Facebook, showing the intense impact of the incident on the entire city.

“We are saddened by the loss of two members of the Ole Brook family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Richardson and Dickey families,” said BHS football coach Tommy Clopton. “This is a very difficult time for all of Ole Brook but especially for those two families and for the Brookhaven High students that called Shaquan and Javonta friend and teammate.”

The school came together early Wednesday morning to pray and grieve together. Martin said when he received the call last night, he immediately began contacting youth ministers, priest, preachers and grief councilors to be present at the school before students entered the building and throughout the day.

“We want to let the family know they are in our thoughts and prayers and that those kids had a very positive impact here and will be truly missed by faculty, staff and students,” said Martin.

The BHS senior class came to school administrators and asked that a prayer rally be held Wednesday night on the football field. Martin said they wanted to come up with a way for the entire school to come together and pray. From the simple request of a few students, the rally grew to a 2,000 member support system.

“Thank you to everyone that has expressed their support, prayers and encouragement,” said Clopton.

The two young men, whose futures seemed bright, left a hole in the community. It will not be easy for anyone to overcome this terrible event, but the unity of the Brookhaven community in the stadium Wednesday night was an incredible tribute. Hopefully together they will be able to move forward.

Dickey and Richardson will be holding a joint funeral at Alexander Junior High School Saturday, Oct. 18 at 11 a.m. Following the service, Dickey will be buried in the Hillcrest Cemetery and Richardson will be buried in Mt. Zion M.B. Church Cemetery in Bogue Chitto.

Acy has been charged with driving while license is suspended, not having proof of liability insurance and two counts of DUI with mutilation and disfigurement.