MONA SHIELD PAYNE / SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 | 2 a.m.
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More than 40 people gathered on the trampled grass surrounding the Flamingo Road traffic light on Las Vegas Boulevard Friday night for Kenneth Cherry Jr.’s candlelight vigil.
Some hugged and cried, their faces wrought with grief; others were silent and expressionless, shocked by the loss. At one point a woman, with her hand pressed to her mouth and eyes welled with tears, took stock of the corner.
It was here where men in a black Range Rover shot and killed Cherry after a verbal altercation that started at the Aria valet area. It was where he crashed his Maserati into a taxi that exploded on impact, killing the driver and passenger, and where his car — crumpled and wrecked — came to rest.
Now it is where family and friends stand, trying to make sense of what happened. Cherry's parents were traveling to Las Vegas on Friday to claim his body.
“A lot of people loved Kenny,” said Shane Izard, who grew up with Cherry in Oakland, Calif., and later moved to Las Vegas with him. “He never did anything to anybody. That’s what makes this so shocking.”
People began arriving to the vigil around 6 p.m., bringing mementos. Cherry's parents, Kenneth Cherry Sr. and Heidi Cherry, who traveled to Las Vegas on Friday to claim their son's body, attended the vigil. The traffic light post was filled with red and white roses, a bouquet of flowers, and prayer candles that kept flickering out in the chilly winter air.
Someone also brought two posters that read: “Family … Where life begins and love never ends,” which people wrote notes on dedicated to Cherry. Later Pastor Darin Church led the group through a passionate prayer that brought tears to the eyes of many.
Cherry’s ex-girlfriend, Chelsey Rodriguez, said she’ll always remember Cherry’s smile, and said he was “like a big teddy bear.” She dated him for about one year, but they remained close friends.
“(The vigil) means a lot because it’s closure, and shows everybody cared about him,” Rodriguez said.
Izard said he was frustrated by several news outlets’ portrayals of Cherry as a “pimp.” He considers Cherry his brother. He said the person he knew could make a bad day better with a joke and was ambitious.
“So far the news has been trying to take away his character saying he’s a pimp and stuff,” Izard said. “I know nothing of that. He was an ambitious and charismatic person.”
Cherry left behind three children, two boys and a girl. May Hagos, the mother of his two-month-old daughter Kayden, said Cherry was a great father, who put his children first.
Standing on the corner surrounded by all his friends, Hagos said the vigil has helped keep Cherry’s memory alive.