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Laughter and tears mark vigil for slain student

Laughter and tears mark vigil for slain student

'Essence of what makes Lincoln great'

December 13th, 2018 by Jeff Haldiman in News

Friends of D'Angelo Bratton-Bland comfort each other during a candlelight vigil Wednesday evening in the Scruggs University Center Ballroom.

Photo by Mark Wilson /News Tribune.

The impact one person can have on a community was shown Wednesday night.

There was laughter mixed with tears during a memorial service for D'Angelo Bratton-Bland, president of Lincoln University's Student Government Association who died after being shot Tuesday night.

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Students, administrators, faculty, staff, Jefferson City residents and representatives of municipal government came together for a memorial service at the Scruggs Student Center Ballroom.

Among those to come was Jonathan Jackson, who graduated in 2017. Jackson led Bratton-Bland's orientation his freshman year.

"He was always a go-getter," Jackson said. "He was a young kid from Chicago who wanted to make things better for himself."

Beyond positions and titles, Jackson said Bratton-Bland was "an amazing spirit to know."

"He loved Lincoln," Jackson said. "People love Lincoln, but you don't always see that with the students. D'Angelo lived for this university."

Jackson said while it hurts to mourn this loss, he hoped some would use this as inspiration to finish strong in whatever they do.

"D'Angelo never quit and never backed down," Jackson said. "If there was something he needed to get done, he got it done, and if he failed the first time, he didn't look at it like 'I won't do it again.' He used it as a stepping stone to go higher. He kept persevering. Even though he lost his mom in 2016, he came back to finish college. He was dedicated and was a leader all the way around."

One of the first students Lincoln University President Jerald Jones Woolfolk met after she was named head of the school was Bratton-Bland.

So when she found out he had died, Jones said she took the loss personally.

"He always had a smile, and we always greeted each other with a hug and a kiss on the cheek," Woolfolk said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon in the school's board room. "He was an awesome student leader who understood his role and the impact it had on the success of other students, as well as the university."

Bratton-Bland was a senior from Chicago working toward a degree in elementary and special education.

In an interview while helping freshmen students move into dorms in August, Bratton-Bland told the News Tribune he was proud to see other seniors and upperclassmen there to help the new students and their families.

"We want to build relationships and connect with them so that we can become their mentors and guide and help them through their college career," he said. "We want to continue the rich history of Lincoln."

News of his death deeply impacted students, faculty and staff.

"Our students are hurting, our faculty and staff are hurting, our alumni are hurting with the loss of D'Angelo," Woolfolk said. "He had so much to give the world, and we have been blessed to have him in our lives.

"Once a Blue Tiger, always a Blue Tiger. D'Angelo Bratton-Bland was the essence of what makes Lincoln great."

Marcus Chanay, vice president of student affairs at Lincoln, said as many as 100 students were in the Scruggs Student Center to comfort each other Tuesday night through early Wednesday morning after learning of Bratton-Bland's death.

Paston Jon Nelson of SOMA Community Church, which sits right next to the Lincoln campus on Fairmount Boulevard, was with those students and said, while it was rough on them, it was necessary for them to grieve well.

"D'Angleo was an amazing young man and I hope these students see that D'Angleo finished his race well and that's what they need to do, now," Nelson said.

Bratton-Bland is the second Lincoln student to have been shot and killed this year, and the third to have died in off-campus incidents.

In August, Charon Session, 23, was shot and killed following a confrontation at a home on Tanya Lynn Drive — about 3 miles west of the LU campus.

The suspect in that case, Alfred Chism Jr., 22, has been charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action. His case is scheduled to be in court next week.

Session was a senior, with a business major. He was a member of the Lincoln University Dance Troupe, Cheer Squad and the Royal Court as Mr. Ivy Man 2017-18. Prior to that, Session was a 2013 graduate of Jefferson City High School where he was an honor roll student and performed in plays and choir.

In September, Ariel Perkins, 21, died after a crash on Interstate 70 near Kingdom City. School officials said Perkins, who was from Washington Park, Illinois, transferred to LU this fall.

Knowing Bratton-Bland's death has left deep emotional scars, the university announced it will be offering counseling services in the Student Health Center in Scruggs, as well as at the Women's Resource Center in Young Hall.

The counseling service is open to LU's students, faculty and staff.

Counseling also is available to students via phone at 573-681-5164 or 573-681-5970.