Community Mourns at Vigil Following Local School Shooting

St. Andrews United Methodist Church
St. Andrews United Methodist Church | Image by Emily Nava/The Dallas Express

ARLINGTON — Community members came together for a vigil Friday evening to mourn the loss of high school student Etavion Barnes,  who was killed in a shooting at Bowie High School just days before.

Barnes, 18, was shot several times by 17-year-old Julian Howard, who was arrested by the Arlington Police Department, as covered by The Dallas Express.

The vigil was held at St. Andrews United Methodist Church, just a mile away from the high school where Howard opened fire. The service, which lasted roughly 45 minutes, included words of encouragement, music, meditation, and prayers from several different speakers, including words from Bishop Ruben Saenz, Jr., which was read by Rev. Kristin Warthen.

“We grieve collectively for the loss of Etavion, and we are committed to working together toward the vision of harmonious relationships and state schools,” Saenz Jr.’s statement read. “Together, we can honor Etavion’s memory and work toward a world where no family must endure a heartbreaking loss.”

Before the service ended, attendees lit candles and raised them up.

“Death has had a word, and violence has had a word, but neither death nor violence gets the last word,” Warthen said during the lighting of the candles. “We light candles and remember that hope and that love.”

DX spoke with two sophomores from Bowie High School who were with each other when the school went into lockdown on Wednesday. Elizabeth Hyden and Nalani Patterson said they started receiving several texts and videos about the shooting.

“That’s when it kind of sunk in, and that’s when we knew, ‘Oh, this is real,'” Hyden told DX. “It’s not just something you hear about anymore like this is actually happening to us. My initial reaction was disbelief.”

Hyden then shared that the students had to line up in the hallway and were escorted by the Arlington Police Department with their hands up before being transported to a reunification site.

“I saw all of our staff members, and I just broke down. Seeing people that you knew just made it real,” Hyden added.

Arlington ISD has not been the only school district in the area to see gunfire break out in recent weeks. At Dallas ISD’s Wilmer-Hutchins High School last week, 17-year-old Ja’kerian Rhodes-Ewing purportedly shot another student in the upper thigh. As covered by The Dallas Express, the Dallas ISD community reacted to the incident with calls for district officials to protect their students better. The district has struggled to comply with a new state law requiring an armed security officer on every campus.

“I feel like a lot of the times we say this would never happen to us or could never be us, this could happen to that school, but it really does happen,” Patterson told DX. “As soon as it happened, I was like, it’s us. It’s our community, it’s our people we call friends, people we probably don’t even know but go to school with and see on a day-to-day basis. One minute, you see them, and now they’re gone.”

Hyden picked up her stuff from school on Friday. She described the feeling of walking in as “unexplainable. It was very somber, yet people were comforting. My heart was racing as I was walking through the hallway.”

Patterson did not go to the school to pick up her things because she felt it was too soon to return to the environment.

Hyden shared that she feels “unsafe” going back to school this coming Monday.

Ryan Armstrong, a student minister at St. Andrews, described the hurt the community is facing as “hard to see.”

When it comes to supporting students, he reminds them that, as a community, it is important to “spread the love and be the light by building relationships together,” he said.

Following the service, attendees were able to sign posters for Barnes, write sympathy cards for his family, and talk with clergy members if needed.

A list of counseling resources was also given to attendees, which included the Arlington ISD Care Clinic, the Arlington ISD community resources, and Empowering Minds counseling services.

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