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Vigil Held for Honors Student Killed by Stray Bullet in Bronx Park

By Ben Fractenberg | July 31, 2012 7:30am | Updated on July 31, 2012 2:43pm

BAYCHESTER — Friends and relatives of a slain 14-year-old boy gathered Monday night in the park where the honors student and star athlete was gunned down by a stray bullet last week.

Kemar Brooks was shot and killed after playing tennis in Haffen Park Thursday evening. His father, Cassell Brooks, 50, found his body the next morning.

On Monday, mourners at the candlelight vigil remembered a lovable teenager who loved sports and education.

"At lunch he would be the first one to greet me and say, 'Hi.' He would hug me and say, 'Make sure you go to class,'" said Shanniella Rhoden, 16, who went to school with Brooks. "When I heard he died I didn't know what to do. I still think it's a dream."

Kemar Bryan Brooks, 14, was found dead in a Bronx park on July 27, 2012.
Kemar Bryan Brooks, 14, was found dead in a Bronx park on July 27, 2012.
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DNAinfo/David Greene

Kemar was shot in the head just steps from the tennis court where he often played. He was with two other young men when it started to rain. The three ran for cover under a gazebo, and that's when the shots rang out.

The two friends ran away but Kemar was struck by an errant bullet in the back of the head, police sources said.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly on Tuesday said detectives found a witness and recovered a handgun that may have used in the shooting.

"The detectives found a witness to a shooting into the park at about 8:00 the night before, before the young man's body was found by his father," Kelly said at an unrelated news conference in Harlem. "The individual is described as a person wearing a hoodie firing rounds into an area near the basketball court, which is sort of in line with the gazebo."

Kelly added that cops found a handgun Monday night, though it was unclear if it was the weapon used in the fatal shooting.

No one has been arrested. A detective who spoke at the vigil said cops "were not going to stop working on this."

The NYPD is offering a $12,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Tipsters are asked to contact Crimes Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS, where callers can remain anonymous.

Cassell Brooks hoped the vigil would lead to a break in the case.

"If we should leave here without doing something," the father said, "then Kemar will have died in vain."

Kemar is one of several young people this month to have been shot. Among the victims was Lloyd Morgan, 4, who was shot and killed July 22 in a Bronx playground.

Three people have been arrested in connection to Lloyd's shooting death.

A woman who worked with youth at the church Brooks attended asked members of the community to help stem the violence in their community.

"Try to get them to get out of it," she said of young people. "Deter them from doing these senseless acts of violence."

A funeral for Kemar will be held this Saturdayat 9 a.m., at the Gospel Assembly Church, where he went to Sunday school.