PALMETTO — Candles were glowing as co-workers and friends of C.J. White gathered to honor his memory Thursday night at Sutton Park.
White, 22, reportedly shot himself after home intruders shot his mother, 43-year-old Patricia White, to death 11:45 p.m. Oct. 1. Patricia White is the 27th homicide victim in Manatee County this year.
C.J. White, who worked at Wal-Mart in Palmetto for two years, is missed by his co-workers. Many of them said they considered him family.
Employees had a potluck Thursday that raised approximately $800 to go toward White’s funeral expenses.
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White also has a 3-year-old daughter, 1-year-old son and was expecting another child this December.
His children clung to their mothers as people shared memories of their father at the park near the intersection of 10th Avenue West and Sixth Street West.
Robert Robinson, a co-worker and friend, said White was always smiling and joking.
“He wanted to do better for himself,” Robinson said.
One of the last times Robinson saw White he was in the store with his daughter buying her a toy.
“Ironically, the toy had a gun in it. I stopped him and said something to him. He said, ‘OK, I see what you mean.’ His daughter came back with a princess doll. I told her that was so pretty,” Robinson said.
White’s daughter, clad in a pink dress, clung to her mother and aunt throughout the vigil. Her younger brother slept softly on his mother’s shoulder, cradled in her arms on the opposite side of mourners standing in circle outside the pavilion.
Last week’s tragedy kicked off when as many as two men burst into the duplex in the 3900 block of Third Avenue Drive East and began yelling and shooting, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Someone in the duplex opened fire on the attackers, hitting one of the gunmen, 19-year-old Jerome Yarn.
Yarn, who is expected to survive, has been charged with Patricia White’s homicide.
Detectives continue to search for the other gunmen.
“It’s a dangerous time right now,” Robinson said. “We stand out here now crying and upset, but when you leave here, you go back to the same lifestyle you’re leading. ... You’ve got to make a change. It doesn’t start with friends. It starts with you.”
Friends said White loved his mother.
Robinson chuckled and recalled a conversation where he asked White, “You live with your mother, don’t you?”
White had replied, “‘Why do you have to say that? Why can’t my momma live with me?’”
“He loved his mom that much,” Robinson said.
Donations for the Whites can be directed to Brenda Dixon, 11535 Third Ave. E., Bradenton, FL 34212.
Another vigil for friends and family is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today at the scene of the shooting.