Family, friends and community members gathered at a convenience store in northwest Ocala on Sunday afternoon for a candlelight vigil to honor and remember 23-year-old Jacorie McCullough, who died of complications of a shooting during an apparent attempted robbery on the spot on March 25.
At least 75 people, including McCullough’s fiancée Sharika Palmer and a 14-year-old boy identified as McCullough’s stepson, gathered at the 7 Days Food Store at 2002 NW First Ave. to pray and share the memories of their lost friend and loved one.
Many members of the group offered their support for Palmer and the young man in the form of hugs and testimonials.
“(Jacorie) was a great person, he didn’t deserve this,” Palmer said before the vigil.
Palmer said McCullough worked as a forklift operator and was involved in the cosmetics profession.
Taukiya Chaver, a friend of McCullough, said he was a “jokester” and was nicknamed “Cheese” for the big smile he put on.
“He was very cool,” she said.
Deon Hunt, 22, of Ocala, a friend of McCullough, said he worked with him in a warehouse and had known him since he was 18.
Derek Ponder came forward to address the group.
“This (tragedy) has left a void. God will fill the void. Choose life,” Ponder said in speaking out against youth violence.
Kim Pompey Wilkerson, leader of War Cry 4 Peace, a gun violence prevention and outreach community, led the vigil, which saw many holding lit candles.
A family member came forward and lit six large candles.
“Jacorie’s candle shined, now we have to shine. It’s a bit like a baton in a relay race,” Wilkerson said.
“We don’t understand a lot of things,” Wilkerson said of the tragedy.
Wilkerson asked the group to offer support to the family even in the coming weeks and months through calls, texts and visits, as the need for support will continue.
At the end of the vigil, Palmer was overcome with emotion and was consoled by several people.
According to a news release from the Ocala Police Department, the shooting took place at the 7 Days Food Store after what appeared to be a robbery involving a backpack and a confrontation between McCullough and two of the three defendants, one of whom pulled out a gun and shot McCullough. .
The press release says 18-year-old Leandre Cox is seen in surveillance footage approaching McCullough with a gun and that two 14-year-olds were also involved in the crime.
The press release states that McCullough and Cox “engage in a short physical fight until Cox shoots McCullough.”
Cox visited the OPD on March 29 and the two 14-year-olds were arrested.
According to Marion County Jail records, Leandre Rashad Cox was convicted on March 30 of first-degree murder.