Bristol, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Surrounded by a group of friends and family on the front steps of Dupont Funeral Home recently, Lanita Thomas couldn’t remember even one bad moment with her murdered younger brother.
“Every memory was a good memory. There wasn’t a bad memory with him,” Thomas said.
Thomas and hundreds of friends, family and classmates of her brother, Anthony “Gooche” Thomas, gathered to mourn Thomas. He died of a single stab wound inflicted during an Oct. 11 fight at a party at the Sunnydale Avenue home of Nicole Boss, a 15-year-old Bristol Central High School junior.
A former Bristol Eastern High School student, 24-year-old Kamani Barrett, is charged with killing Thomas. His family says he acted in self-defense.
But Thomas’ friends and family members said Thomas intervened to break up an argument between Barrett and Matt Myers, another Central student.
Thomas was remembered by many for standing up for people in distress.
“That was my chillin’ partner. He was my bodyguard. Everywhere I went, there he was,” Lanita Thomas said.
Samantha and Joyce McLellan, cousins of the Thomas’, remembered his basketball games at the Racquet Club, winter snowball fights, his big laugh and “his big afro.”
“He was the nicest guy,” said Samantha McLellan. “He was a role model to everyone.”
Mark Paparello, a sophomore at Central, said he was glad to see the huge turnout for Thomas at his wake, but was disappointed it took something so tragic to make people appreciate him.
“It doesn’t feel the same going back to class without him, not at all,” Paparello said.
According to Paparello, an argument over a dent in a car sparked Thomas’ stabbing. The dispute between Barrett and Myers happened in Bosse’s garage while her parents were out of town.
The cousins said that when Barrett hit Myers with the butt of a butter knife, Thomas tried to intervene.
McLellon, who was attended the party, said Thomas hit Barrett with a broomstick in hopes of breaking up the fight, but was stabbed in the lungs during the melee.
Barrett’s family has said that the accused murderer acted in self-defense.
For his friends and family, Thomas’ death leaves a deep sadness.
“It’s going to be hard to forget him,” Jose Galindo, a senior at Central, said. “He was a big dude. I can’t see the big dude anymore.”
Fawn Newburry, a sophomore at Central, echoed the sentiment.
“He would’ve done anything for anyone,” Newburry said. “He could be in the worst mood and still walk up to somebody and hug a person that was upset.”
Newburry said she and Thomas were close friends who sat together at lunch everyday.
In tears, she said, “He died a hero.”
Mike Nguyen and Joe Keo are Reporters for Youth Journalism International.