Friends gather to pay tribute to 19-year-old shooting victim
By Gary Popp
Published in News on July 18, 2011 1:46 PM
News-Argus/MICHAEL K. DAKOTA
Shawndae Pinkney listens to speakers share stories about Cquashanda Laquan Mitchell during a memorial Saturday. Friends and classmates gathered at Berkeley Mall to honor Miss Mitchell, 19, who was fatally shot in her home last week. Friends spoke at the 9 p.m. ceremony, which also included a candle-lighting and a balloon release.
News-Argus/MICHAEL K. DAKOTA
Robbie Mitchell, Cquashanda's brother, spoke. His brother Rob held him after his voice started to break up while talking about his sister, who was allegedly shot by another brother, Rico Antonio Mitchell, 22, Thursday.
Cquashanda Mitchell had her whole life ahead of her.
The 19-year-old aspiring model was a 2010 graduate of Charles B. Aycock High School and had just auditioned to be on the TV show "America's Next Top Model."
But that dream ended last week when a bullet, believed to have come from a gun fired by one of her brothers, took her life.
Friends and family gathered Saturday to remember the young woman, to light candles and to release balloons -- and to sadly wonder what could have been.
The emotional group of about 80 people, which was organized by and included many of Miss Mitchell's fellow graduates from Charles B. Aycock, tearfully shared prayers, songs and memories.
The service ended after the eldest of Miss Mitchell's four brothers, Robbie Mitchell, 30, gave the group a tearful thank-you on behalf of the Mitchell family.
"It was a beautiful thing that her classmates came together and wanted to put something together to celebrate her life. It really touched my family," he said.
Those who attended the memorial included Miss Mitchell's friends from school, members of her church, Holy Temple Miracle Tabernacle, in Snow Hill, and her family, including her mother, 11-year-old sister, brothers, and cousins.
"It was quite a turnout. It really means a lot, especially considering the fact that it is young people," Mitchell said. "Anytime you can see young people come together, especially young people in the African American community, for something positive, regardless of the circumstances, it is a beautiful thing."
Stephanie Lopez, 19, had been a friend of Miss Mitchell's since the two met in the second grade at Northwest Elementary.
Miss Lopez said her friend's unfortunate death inspired her and others to organize the service.
"She was, obviously, very close to us and not just the fact that she passed, but it is, pretty much, the way that she passed, also. It just wasn't right," Miss Lopez said. "So, we figured that she deserved a lot more than just ordinary condolences. We needed something more than just that."
Miss Lopez said the memorial's large turnout was because of the kindness Miss Mitchell exhibited to others.
"She was a really respectful, genuinely nice person," she said. "She just knew how to listen to a person and give good advice."
The memorial gave those close to Miss Mitchell an opportunity to cope with losing their friend.
"It brought a lot of people together," Miss Lopez said. "We needed this."
Cyril Hansen, 19, another classmate, also was instrumental in organizing the service.
Hansen said the event had a very positive feel and that the turnout was better than he had expected.
"For everybody to come out and show their love is, like, amazing," Hansen said. "I know that she is more than happy and proud that we could do this for her. If it was any of us, she would have wanted to do the same thing."
Miss Mitchell's mother, Belinda Houston Mitchell, received embraces and condolences throughout the event from those who were touched by her daughter.
"Cquashanda would really appreciate everyone out here tonight," Mrs. Mitchell said.
Miss Mitchell was allegedly shot by her brother Rico Antonio Mitchell Thursday.
Her father, Robert Earl Mitchell, 56, also was shot and was taken to Pitt Memorial Hospital where condition information has not been available.