Oct. 19: S. Gayoso and Eden
NEW ORLEANS – The teddy bear placed near the spot where Rakeen Holmes was gunned down Saturday night holds special meaning for those who knew him.
“That's who Rakeen Holmes was,” said Rev. Lisa Fitzpatrick, who says Holmes was like a son to her. “A cuddly teddy bear. A light in a dark place.”
And Holmes had seen a lot of darkness in his 25 years. In 2011, his daughter, Keira Holmes was killed by a stray bullet days before her second birthday.
She had been playing outside at the B.W. Cooper Housing Development in Central City, about a mile from where her father would be killed nearly two years later.
One neighbor who didn't want to be identified said Holmes suffered greatly after his daughter's death.
"From what I know he wasn't a troubled kid or nothing like that. He was a good person," said one neighbor. "I'd be on the porch, he'd stop by and say hey. He always wore his daughter's t-shirt with her picture on it. He grieved a lot over that."
“He had bought Keira a teddy bear for her second birthday that he never got to give her. And he curled up with the teddy bear every night,” said Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick took Holmes under her wing and into her home after his daughter died. He soon became part of her family.
“I thought we were going to give him some quiet space for a couple of days, and then it just became like home,” said Fitzpatrick. “So he stayed with us most of that year.”
Holmes didn’t sleep for days after his daughter’s murder, said Fitzpatrick. He finally rested after getting a Hello Kitty tattoo in his daughter’s honor. It marked the spot where Keira used to kiss his check.
Holmes was working to finish his education, said Fitzpatrick. He also volunteered at the APEX Youth Center Fitzpatrick founded, aimed at teaching young people to resolve issues in nonviolent ways.
Fitzpatrick said Holmes recently returned to New Orleans. He spent a few months with family in Arkansas after his mother died this year.
“He was a beautiful person,” said Fitzpatrick. “He was trying to hard. He was trying so hard.”
Now, Fitzpatrick says this tragedy strengthens her resolve.
“In Rakeen's honor, we must go on with the work. We must give every young man who wants it a safe space from the noise and the chaos of the street,” said Fitzpatrick.
On the street where Holmes was killed, neighbors say they’re shocked. They say this type of gun violence normally doesn’t happen here.
“It was just devastating you know, and then it's right in front of the door,” said a neighbor. “I'm just glad my kids wasn't outside.”
Holmes was shot in the face just across the street from where neighbors held a vigil for the victim of a fatal car accident. Holmes didn’t know the people holding the vigil, and Fitzpatrick believes he had stopped to listen to music playing during the event.
“He knew the neighborhood well,” said Fitzpatrick. “He'd lived there. He had walked past that corner with my little boy time and time again going for a cold drink. This is not a bad place.”
Now, Fitzpatrick has a message for his killer.
“Please for your sake and your safety please turn yourself into the authorities. Please honor the light that Rakeen stood for so that you don't bring yourself further into darkness,” she said.
The community is holding a candlelight vigil for Holmes at 6 p.m. Monday at South Gayoso and Eden Streets.
Anyone with information that can help solve this crime is asked to call Crimestoppers at 822-1111 or toll-free 1-877-903-STOP.
Callers can remain anonymous and could receive a cash reward of up to $2,500 for the information leading to an arrest and indictment.