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Balloons released over Raleigh as mourners pay tribute to teen killed in school fight

Delvin Ferrell’s friends gathered under a tree with black balloons tied to the trunk, many of them still children with playground voices, all of them mourning a young man gone before he was old enough to drive.

They brought more balloons shaped like red hearts and stars, and on the count of three, they let dozens of them go, watching them slowly float over downtown Raleigh’s skyline.

“Long live Delvin!” they shouted. “L.L.D!”

More than 100 people flooded Heritage Park apartments on Dorothea Drive, where Ferrell’s family held a balloon release Wednesday to honor the 15-year-old killed in the gymnasium at Southeast Raleigh High School on Monday.

Ferrell died of stab wounds after a fight broke out and spilled into the high school gym, where a video captured the fracas. A 16-year-old was hospitalized after the fight.

Flowers sit at a memorial prior to a balloon release to honor Delvin Ferrell on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Raleigh, N.C. Ferrell, 15, died after being stabbed on Monday at Southeast Raleigh High School.
Flowers sit at a memorial prior to a balloon release to honor Delvin Ferrell on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Raleigh, N.C. Ferrell, 15, died after being stabbed on Monday at Southeast Raleigh High School. Kaitlin McKeown kmckeown@newsobserver.com

A 14-year-old remains in custody, charged with murder, and could be charged as an adult. His mother has said Monday’s fight stemmed from an earlier one involving her daughter and another female student that spiraled into a larger group — an account that mourners Wednesday confirmed.

Southeast Raleigh High School was closed Tuesday and Wednesday and is scheduled to reopen Thursday with extra security. A community forum will be held Monday at the school to hear from parents and students.

The Rev. Wilbert Davis of Glorious Church of God moved to the center of the mourners and called for peace, asking for God’s assurance knowing that “this is a low place. This is a valley.”

“Allow us to see what’s really important,” said Davis said, who grew up at Heritage Park. “You have plans for every one of these young people. They’re young kings and queens of God.”

As the balloons grew distant, the mourners let loose another set, calling the young man’s name a final time.

Rev. Wilbert Davis of Glorious Church of God speaks prior to a balloon release in honor of Delvin Ferrell on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Raleigh, N.C. Ferrell, 15, died after being stabbed on Monday at Southeast Raleigh High School.
Rev. Wilbert Davis of Glorious Church of God speaks prior to a balloon release in honor of Delvin Ferrell on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Raleigh, N.C. Ferrell, 15, died after being stabbed on Monday at Southeast Raleigh High School. Kaitlin McKeown kmckeown@newsobserver.com

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Josh Shaffer is a general assignment reporter on the watch for “talkers,” which are stories you might discuss around a water cooler. He has worked for The News & Observer since 2004 and writes a column about unusual people and places.

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