LaGrange College holds gun violence walk to honor former football captain

Published 8:07 pm Monday, February 26, 2024

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“No more silence. Stop gun violence.”

That’s the chant that dozens of LaGrange College students, faculty and supporters repeated as they marched from the Callaway Education Building to Callaway Stadium on Sunday afternoon in memory of LaKevin Ralpheal DeBruce who lost his life to gun violence late last year.

On Saturday, LaGrange College and The Ball Out Foundation, which DeBruce’s mother created after his passing, hosted an anti-gun violence walk asking people to step up and help end gun violence.

The former Panther and senior captain of the LaGrange College football team tragically lost his life to gun violence over Thanksgiving break at home in Birmingham, Alabama.

DeBruce, 22, was shot in West Birmingham on Nov. 18, 2023. Witnesses reportedly saw the incident but they aren’t talking to police, at least not enough to identify the culprits.

“On Nov. 18, someone that we love, someone that we call student, friend, leader, captain teammate and son and relative and grandson passed away from the epidemic of gun violence,” LaGrange College President Susanna Baxter said.

“We need each and every one of you to live your life trying to make what happened to LaKevin never happen to another family again,” Baxter said, noting it’s likely up to younger generations to make the change.

DeBruce’s mother, LaTanya Jemison, started the Ball Out foundation in his memory with the hope that what happened to her son would never happen to another student.

“A lot of you might know him by 8-ball, or the DeBruce but to me he was my baby. I started the foundation in his memory and bring awareness to gun violence,” Jemison said.

Jemison asked the crowd to help by not remaining silent when they saw something.

“There are too many victims who have lost their life — in broad daylight — where there are plenty of witnesses but no one wants to speak up out of fear of retaliation,” she said.

After the walk to Callaway Stadium where balloons were released in DeBruce’s honor, the group returned to the Callaway Education Building where a bench was dedicated in his memory. Baxter and Jemison also signed paperwork creating an annual scholarship in his name.

LaGrange College Head Coach Wes Dodson said the team isn’t retiring his number but they are honoring it differently. He said they plan to only allow players with DeBruce’s character and hardworking attitude to wear his number, eight.

“Bruce was consistent in everything that he did. He consistently got up every day and loved life, loved everybody that was around him. He was one of the most consistent people I’ve been around as a coach,” Dodson said.

“Everything he did every day, the way he lived his life, the way he loved everybody, the way he embodied our core values. … Every day he did his best, worked hard, and did extra work to make himself better. He showed people he cared. That’s why everyone’s here. Right? Because he showed you what it meant to care about someone.

Those are the characteristics of players who will be allowed to wear number eight, Dodson said.