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Copeland’s father was shot to death in front of him when he was 8, Hawkins said.
“This doesn’t explain his actions,” he said. “It’s reflective of the community he lives in.”
Nobody from Copeland’s family attended the hearing, only Lanisha Taylor, Copeland’s girlfriend since age 12. She said she still finds it hard to believe that he killed Ray’Jon because “that’s not the person I know.”
“Seeing what he’s going through in prison shows how hard he’s taken it,” she said. “There are losses for both families.”
Sorrow and anger
After the hearing, Carmen Gomez said she wants to believe that Copeland is remorseful, “but I can’t do it right now.” Instead, she said, she’s focusing on happy memories of her child, whom she described as an intelligent teenager with a great personality.
“He would give you the last piece of his candy if you asked for it,” she said.
It wasn’t the first time the Gomez family has had to deal with the violent death of a loved one. In 1995, Malo Gomez, Carmen’s 21-year-old nephew, was shot to death on the city’s North Side. That death prompted two community foundations to issue a brochure decrying street killings.
Ray’Jon’s death, along with the murders of two other teens within the span of a month, triggered similar community outrage.
“I’m just angry,” said Camille Gomez, Carmen’s twin sister. “I will never see him again.”
Every Aug. 24, the family holds a picnic to celebrate his life, his mother said. She pulled a picture of his grave from her purse and pointed out the etchings of a basketball, a bike and his German shepherd puppy, Zany, on the marker.
“Give your all to your kids every day,” she said. “I never knew I was going to lose him.”
After Ray’Jon’s death, she moved away from her North Side home.
“I know I have to forgive him,” she said, referring to Copeland. “Now maybe Ray’Jon can rest in peace.”
David Chanen • 612-673-4465