MANATEE — Raechelle and Aretha James took the cheerleading uniform of their fallen daughter and granddaughter Thursday from a tearful team of Bayshore High School cheerleaders looking to say goodbye to their teammate and friend.
The somber transfer began an emotional memorial service for the Bayshore cheerleader, 17-year-old Jasmine Thompson, gunned down while riding in a car with three friends at 37th Avenue East and 11th Street Court East after a Southeast High School football game.
Thompson’s mother, Raechelle, and grandmother, Aretha, were two of hundreds who attended the memorial at the Bayshore High football field. Several of Thompson’s teammates read letters of love and longing to have their friend back.
And Bayshore’s cheerleading team captain, Kristi Drobecker, read a paper Jasmine penned before her death picturing her life five years removed from high school, as a college student.
In the letter, Thompson spoke of her love for her teammates, being engaged to a man, taking a full load of classes in college and working part-time at a Starbucks to help get by. She wrote of being someone not scared to go through the hard times to achieve her goals.
“Nothing has been handed to me on a silver platter,” Thompson wrote.
After the ceremony, Raechelle and Aretha James stood arm and arm and talked about their beloved “Jaz.”
“She left me with so many memories, and every memory is a good one,” said Raechelle. “She was our bright young star. I am overwhelmed by all the people here. I think they all realize she was a child of God.”
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office detectives have arrested 18-year-old Daniel Williams on a charge of second-degree murder in Thompson’s shooting death. Reports say he walked up to the car Jasmine and three other girlfriends were in and made a sexual remark. As the driver of the car drove off, witnesses say Williams opened fire on the vehicle, hitting Thompson in the head.
Raechelle talked about the violence that took her daughter’s life, the second death of a teenager with ties to Bayshore. A month before Thompson’s death, 18-year-old Bayshore graduate DeJuan Williams was allegedly shot while in his backyard by 16-year-old Byron Galloway, according to sheriff’s reports.
Thompson had talked about DeJuan Williams’ death prior to her own, her grandmother said.
“She asked us when it happened, ‘Who’s next?’ She told us the violence had to stop,” Aretha said.
Raechelle agreed with her daughter’s hopes for an end to the violence that has plagued Manatee in a year that has seen a record number of homicides here.
“Someone showing off and acting out of hatred made an example of my daughter,” Raechelle said. “I am sorry that my child had to be the example, but I am hoping her memory will put an end to all this. It has to stop now.”
Emotion ran high for Thompson’s friends at the memorial as well. Thompson, Toya McKinnon and Yazzi Vicente used to call themselves the “Three Musketeers,” McKinnon said.
“That was my baby,” she said of Thompson.
McKinnon and Vicents gave little teases of “inside jokes” they had with Thompson, smiling and at times tearing up knowing those are things only the “Three Musketeers” would understand.
“She was my business partner. Just a little inside joke we had. She was our best friend,” said Vicente.
Bayshore Principal David Underhill said the mood at the school has moved to one of shock to so many asking why such a senseless act happened.
“There are a lot of students asking us why this happened, as we all are,” he said. “We are hoping this memorial service will help give the students some kind of closure.”
The tragic loss of Thompson not only touched those who knew her, but famed ESPN sports broadcaster Dick Vitale announced Thursday that he established scholarships in the name of Thompson and DeJuan Williams at Bayshore.
Vitale created two $1,000 scholarships in each teen’s name for a Bayshore student that will be selected this year by a panel led by Underhill to help pay for college expenses.
Donations can be made to the scholarship funds from the public and business community to increase the amount the students will receive, Vitale said.
“I am asking for the public to step up with me to remember the legacies of these wonderful young people who had their lives tragically cut way too short,” Vitale said.
Checks can be sent to the office of Bayshore Principal David Underhill, at 5401 34th St. W., Bradenton, FL 34210, made out to “Memorial Scholarship Fund.”