Family of shooting victim holds vigil at Duncan Park

jmadden@herald-leader.comMay 13, 2014 

Anita Franklin told a crowd during a candlelight vigil Tuesday about three phone calls the day her son was shot.

Antonio Franklin, 21, of Lexington, was shot in the head at Duncan Park about 6:30 p.m. on April 13.

Anita said her 15-year-old son, Ricardo Franklin, called her three times at 7:50 p.m. asking where Antonio was. The first two times she hung up, because Antonio had gone on a walk, and she was in the bathtub. But she said when she got the third call, she knew something was wrong.

“Mom, I heard (Antonio) got shot,” she recalled Ricardo telling her.

She rushed to the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, where she found a roomful of kids and a police officer who told her doctors were working on Antonio.

“Just like the movies — I never thought I could cry and yell so loud,” the mother of three said.

Antonio was on a ventilator.

She walked into the hospital room and told him, “Don’t worry about it. If you come back to me, that’ll be good. If not, it’s OK.”

A tear rolled from his eye, she said. Antonio died the next afternoon.

Antonio was found lying near some swings at the Duncan Park playground. The park is on Fifth Street between North Limestone and Martin Luther King Boulevard. Police said Antonio was an innocent bystander in the shooting. Last month, police charged a juvenile with murder. They said additional arrests and charges are possible.

On Tuesday, friends and relatives sat under tents and huddled around a microphone to express their memories of Antonio. Some prayed, others sang songs, and others held each other, sobbing.

The vigil lasted from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and about 70 people attended. A memorial of pictures and candles was placed on a tree and in the playground area. Anita said the vigil was held in honor of her son and in an effort to stop gun violence.

“Staying silent is not the answer,” the nurse said. “Being vocal is the answer.”

Antonio was an athlete and loved music. He graduated from Lafayette High School, where he was a member of the track team. He also worked at McAlister’s and had attended Kentucky State University, according to a life-size poster at the park Tuesday.

Anita remembers her son as a quiet person whom everyone loved.

“Over 1,500 people attended his funeral,” she said.

But Anita is hoping to honor her son in a lasting way.

She’s started an organization called “Let’s Get Better” to stop gun violence and to teach parents and children how to stay safe.

“All of our children should be able to go to enjoy the park and enjoy the weather, and not be hurt,” she said.

During the vigil, Anita urged parents to start focusing on how to prepare their children when accidents and emergencies occur. She said she prepared her children to escape fires and drowning, but not to duck.

About a dozen balloons were released in Antonio’s memory at the end of the vigil as Whitney Houston’s song "I Look to You" played.

Justin Madden: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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