COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — “An angel on Earth.” That’s how loved ones described 18-year-old Demarcus “Alex” Hughes, who was shot and killed at a park in Cookeville last week.
A minor is now facing a number of charges — including reckless homicide — in connection with the shooting at West End Park that left Hughes dead and another teen wounded on Friday, Oct. 6, according to the Cookeville Police Department.
“That’s why it didn’t make any sense to me. He had no enemies. Everyone that knew him loved him,” Hughes’ mother, Deanne Brooks, explained.
Those words were apparent as dozens, if not hundreds, gathered on Wednesday, Oct. 11 where Hughes was killed.
Just feet from a playground, outside the basketball court where Hughes spent much of his time, supporters rallied for the teen and his family.
“This happened because someone had a gun that he was not properly trained to use. He was a child that did not need a gun,” Brooks proclaimed.
Hughes took his last breath in front of some of his best friends, leaving everyone broken.
“I was broke when I got here to this court…I was broke. They took my breath when they took his breath. My breath was gone,” Brooks told the crowd on Wednesday.
His mom is now finding the strength to use her voice: “He was a light to everyone that he touched.”
Hughes was described as loyal, true, honest, and courageous, but those words barely touch the surface of who he was. Brooks said her son was humble, living up to his motto of “I got you,” and often serving as a protector.
“He saved so many people, like so many people, so many lives that he touched in 18 years,” she told News 2 while crying.
While Hughes’ physical presence may have ended at the park, his family said his story is just beginning, with community members vowing to not be defined by the tragedy, but rather by their response.
“This child was an angel on earth, so when his life went, he automatically told me, ‘Now I can do more, Mama,'” Brooks said.
While it’s only been a matter of days since his death, Hughes’ mother said she and others are pushing for a law in his honor that will hold gun owners more accountable.
“We are going to make it safer for our kids so nobody else feels this hole that I have,” she explained.
Many of the youth in the crowd also vowed to be part of a mentoring program dubbed Alex’s Friends.
“We would like to have Alex’s Friends in every high school in our state. We are going to start with the state of Tennessee, but I want it to reach the world,” Brooks said. “We are starting here we are starting here in this community. His mother is not going to stop until I get justice for my baby, until I save this community. We are going to save these babies. This is senseless, we are going to save these kids.”
A GoFundMe page has been created to help the family during this difficult time. According to Brooks, additional funds will go back to the community to support their mission.
Meanwhile, a coming home celebration will be held for Hughes at West End Park on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Authorities told News 2 a juvenile suspect has been charged with reckless homicide, aggravated assault and tampering with evidence in connection with the case.
The motive for Friday’s shooting remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call the Cookeville Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division at 931-526-2125.