Vigil held for slain teen
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A group of friends and family gathered Friday evening behind a boarded-up home to remember a teenage boy taken from them too soon.
Syelis Dumas-Rodgers, 16, was found dead outside a residence on the 500 block of Balmoral Street early on Oct. 1. At the time, police deemed it a suspicious death. Investigators later said Dumas-Rodgers had been slain. No charges have been laid.
Around 40 friends, family and community members held a candlelight vigil at 562 Balmoral St., close to where he was found.
The home appears deserted, with “No trespass” spray-painted on the back wall. One mourner who paid their respects walked around the property picking up needles and garbage left in the yard.
On a poster in his memory, “No justice, no peace!” was written in a corner.
Clair Francis, who helped organize the vigil, called Dumas-Rodgers “like a grandson.”
“It’s one of our people, unfortunately,” he said.
Francis led a spirit song for Dumas-Rodgers to help the teenager find his way from this world to the next, he explained.
“Here today, we are paying tribute, an honour, in memory of this young man,” he said.
Presley Whitmore was close friends with Dumas for years and remembers him as a funny, well-liked kid who made friends quickly.
“When I first met him, he was really nice. He was shy. He walked me home the first day I met him,” she said. “And then the next day, we just started hanging out all the time.”
She was in the area not long after his death; when she realized the forensics team gathering evidence was investigating her friend’s death, she broke down.
“I went there and talked to his grandma and I broke down in her arms because I just didn’t know how to feel. I went to his room, me and my brother, and we were just standing there looking at his bed and everything, crying because he’s not going to be there anymore.”
She wanted the vigil to provide some form of closure to his loved ones.
“He was a very loving, outgoing, caring person. He’ll be missed by everyone — his friends, his grandma, his auntie, his brothers and everyone,” she said. “It’s just not going to be the same without him.”
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.