NEW ORLEANS - Beautiful sunflowers reach toward the sky just steps away from where something ugly happened Monday night near the corner of Birch and Eagle Streets in the West Carrollton neighborhood of New Orleans.
AmeriCorps volunteer Joseph Massenburg, 18, lost his life there in a hail of bullets.
"I heard the shots," said Rev. C.L. Franklin who lives across the street from the crime scene. "It must be five or six of them. I can't recall."
Franklin says neighbors are heartbroken.
"We were all just standing there with tears in our eyes because we understand the significance of it. He came to help us and we let him down."
Massenburg was with a group of volunteers working with the non-profit Green Light NOLA to install energy efficient light bulbs in people's homes.
His parents, Sharon and Andre Massenburg run a church in Chicago that ministers to the poor. They say Joseph never met a stranger.
"That was part of the reason he wanted to go and help out," his mother said. "He would call and tell me he liked talking to the people there and meeting new people."
"We taught him to be thoughtful and giving and that's part of the reason he was part of the AmeriCorps organization," his father said. "He wanted to volunteer his time."
The Massenburgs say they're angry and hurt, not just because their son was murdered, but because they know the cycle of violence plaguing inner-cities across America won't end with Joseph's death.
"We're going to turn on the TV tonight and there's going to be another kid, another innocent kid who has lost his life," said Pastor Andre Massenburg. "There's nothing you and I can do about that and that is not right."
Back in the West Carrollton neighborhood neighbors say the AmeriCorps volunteers had only been staying in a house on Eagle Street for a couple of weeks. They think the murder may have been an unfortunate case of mistaken identity.
"In reality, it wasn't his fight," said Rev. Franklin. The volunteers come in and help us. It's our fight. It's our struggle. All this mess and stuff, is stuff we in one way or another allowed to happen. Or we participate in it. We're praying for his family and we pray for our neighborhood. This is the stigma that hangs over us, that people could come in to help us and this could happen to them."
"It's not a New Orleans problem," said Andre Massenburg. "It's an American problem. It's not just an inner city problem. It's an American problem."
New Orleans police say they have nothing new to report on the search for Joseph Massenburg's killer.