The cries were muffled and the hugs were tight Thursday as the family of Jonathan Ferrell collected themselves before entering Lee Hall Auditorium.
The Ferrell family gripped one another for comfort and began to descend to their seats as the prayer vigil honoring the life and legacy of Jonathan began.
Jonathan, a former Florida A&M football player, was gunned down by a Charlotte, N.C., police officer on Saturday. He had just survived a severe car accident when he stumbled a quarter of a mile away to the nearest home for help.
After the female homeowner responded to a knock on the front door and saw it was not her husband, she called 911. Upon the arrival of police, Officer Randall Kerrick shot Jonathan 10 times as he advanced toward three officers, possibly seeking help for his car.
A light atmosphere filled Lee Hall while speakers and those close to Jonathan painted a picture of his personality, telling stories that depicted him as a playful and loving individual.
Jonathan’s mother, Georgia Ferrell, clutched her son’s former football jersey and a small Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal, his favorite cartoon character, throughout the program.
As the music department began its rendition of “Total Praise,” the entire audience fell silent. The musical melody allowed members of the crowd to sink into their thoughts of the 24-year-old.
Student Government President Anthony Siders, who served as master of ceremony for the vigil, began his introductory remarks by saying those in attendance should honor Jonathan’s life.
“Weeping may endure for night, but joy comes in the morning,” Siders said. “We need to live with the utmost respect and pride for Jonathan’s life.”
Family, friends, former classmates and Rattlers who just wanted to pay their respects all sat in attendance. Members of the FAMU DRS Royal Court sat with Baby Rattlers who graduated from DRS, where Jonathan began his football career.
The interim dean of the College of Education, Patricia Green-Powell, spoke on behalf of Interim President Larry Robinson.
“Jonathan was a fitting example of humility and hard work,” Green-Powell said. “Jonathan inspired and encouraged others to achieve. He loved his school, his team, but he also loved people.”
The FAMU football team sat eight rows full wearing their jerseys a day before they travel to Columbus, Ohio, to compete against No. 4 Ohio State University.
FAMU DRS head football coach Ira Reynolds expressed his feelings toward his former player.
“Jonathan would want us to finish the race,” Reynolds said. “He would want us to fight through whatever obstacles we encounter. He had the biggest heart.”
Though he was not featured on the program, Willie Ferrell, Jonathan’s brother, addressed the crowd on behalf of the family. He said he speaks to his brother all the time and made a promise not to cry during his speech.
“Jonathan was a great person who loved playing jokes and especially loved our two nieces,” Willie said.
Willie had the crowd erupting into deep laughter as he told story after story of their childhood. He told of how his older siblings would wrestle them to the ground and included a story about the time Jonathan placed laxatives in his chocolate bar as a prank.
He ended his tribute by expressing gratitude to the members of the audience for the support they continue to show his family during their time of mourning.
“I thank everybody for honoring my brother and being here to support the family,” he said. “I can’t thank you guys enough.
“My family needs a lot of prayers through this time. He loved everybody. He loved y’all, and I promised him I wouldn’t cry and I didn’t. Thank you.”