MOULTRIE, Ga. — Jayla Alexander, 18, was killed late Saturday in what the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is calling a drive by shooting. Her father Quentin Alexander said, “There is no sleeping,” and no eating, only constant crying since her death.
But on Tuesday, he felt good. That day a vigil in honor of Jayla was organized and held at the corner of 12th Avenue Southeast gathering family, friends, schoolmates and the community in general.
Tears fell, sniffles persisted, but with a white/blue balloon or candle in-hand, no one turned away as they faced the candles spelling Jayla’s name on the street that she was killed on.
“This is the first time that I have not cried since my baby’s been shot,” Quentin said. “With love like this coming from the community, it’s a lot easier for me and my wife — it’s a lot easier for all of us (the family).”
The vigil began with a short word, prayer and a couple of hymns by Jayla’s cousin, May Collins. Attendees were then asked to speak on Jayla.
Humble, joyful and vibrant were frequent characterizations of her personality but beyond that she was somebody’s child gone way too soon. It inspired a friend of the family, Tabitha Woods, to speak.
“This is serious. This is someone’s child and she didn’t deserve this,” Woods said. “I promise [you all] it hurt me so bad to look around and [see] we have to come to this right here.”
She said she felt that God was trying to tell the parents of Moultrie — the “grown folks” — something’s going on because their “babies were leaving here.”
“Please if [you all] know something, please, I’m begging [you all] just let somebody know,” she said. “Call it in anonymously — something.”
She wasn’t the only one to stand behind the sentiment. Tafarian Lewis, another family friend, said to stay away from guns.
“Kids [you all’s] age shouldn’t even be having guns,” she said. “ So, if [you all] see them [or someone] with a gun, call the police.”
It’s senseless, she said. But the message culminated in a passionate outburst from Quentin.
He said he said he’d never shot a gun and killed somebody in his more than 40 years of life. Conflict resolution was his way of dealing with anger.
“That means find the person that you’re angry with, get rid of the anger and let that person live again,” he said.
Jayla was a senior at Colquitt County High School and Quentin had recently bought her cap and gown before he visited her in the hospital on Saturday.
When he was told his daughter was dead, he said his brain flipped around and upside down in his head.
He had to look at his daughter’s blood congeal, see her bone fragments.
“I will never in my life forget that,” he said. “But I will use my daughter’s life to give me life — to give me strength.”
That’s why he implored the crowd numbering more than a hundred to change. In his words, “It ain’t coming from Valdosta. It ain’t coming from Thomasville. It’s coming right up out of Moultrie, Georgia. This is where it’s got to start.”
“What are you killing for? You’re not God. You didn’t give me life. Why are you taking my life?” he asked. “If you are a coward that’s got to do a drive-by, go in front of your damn house and shoot your family down, but don’t shoot no more of mine. We all are family. Take those guns and throw them away. You don’t need them.”
Jayla’s case is still under investigation by the GBI and Moultrie Police Department.
“Justice for Jayla,” Lewis said. “From this day forward, this is a movement.”