The family of a star quarterback who was shot dead just days before his Louisiana high school graduation accepted his diploma during an emotional ceremony that celebrated his life.
Bryant Lee, an 18-year-old honor role student, should have donned a white robe and cap and sat among his fellow graduates at McKinley High School on Wednesday, but his chair was empty.
Lee was shot in the head at a party in Baton Rouge just before 2 a.m. on Saturday, May 13. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
He was set to graduate just four days later.
“This was something that he looked forward to and he did too, so I’m celebrating in his honor,” his aunt, Pamela Johnson Hickman, told WAFB-TV.
She and Lee’s other loved ones tearfully received his diploma, senior portrait and honors that the 3.5-GPA student had worked so hard to achieve.
“We love him and he was well-loved at McKinley Senior High School and as a now alumnus of McKinley Senior High School, his memory will always be embraced,” Principal Herman Brister said.
Lee had planned to attend Southern University in the fall.
“He was talking about going on to college, walking on to play football, and now this,” head football coach Ken Hilton told the television station. “This is a real tough pill to swallow.”
Lee was also shot in the leg in a drive-by shooting last November, but by the following day, the resilient teen was already home recovering.
A motive for the most recent shooting was not immediately clear, but those who knew Lee said he was respectful and stayed out of trouble.
"This was not a young man who was in and out of trouble or some gang thing," Hilton told The Advocate. "It was a kid who in my eyes was a good kid. Everything he said was 'no, sir' or 'yes, sir' and shook your hand.”
Investigators have already hit road blocks in solving the murder, as they said very few people are cooperating with law enforcement. More than 100 people were at the party, but hardly anyone is talking, WAFB reported.
“They should want this thing to be handled and settled the right way. They should want the individual that did the shooting or individuals who did the shooting to face justice,” Sgt. L’Jean McKneely Jr. said. “A young life, promising future, now he has no future.”
Anyone with information on this incident is asked to call the Violent Crimes Unit at 225-389-4869 or Crime Stoppers at 225-344-7867.