MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) — A local pastor fed up with crime is asking everyone to stand up and speak out against violence. His comments come after 16-year-old Derica Patterson was gunned down in a drive-by shooting Christmas morning. Meanwhile, the search continues for one of her accused shooters, 22-year-old Rico Fleming.
Deputies have been on the hunt for Fleming, trying to track down all leads in this case. Just Thursday night a teen was arrested in connection with the killing. Patterson’s Pastor, Eugene Gibson Junior from the Olivet Fellowship Baptist Church, along with members of the community, are hopeful they can make some sort of change.
"It's time community leaders, as well as church leaders, and civic leaders to come together and really speak out against youth violence,” said Pastor Gibson.
That's the message the pastor plans to hammer home. He will be speaking at Patterson's funeral service Saturday, December 31, 2011. It’s a painful way to end this year and start the next.
"I'm going to do a piece about unnecessary violence and how we need to curb it in our community,” said the pastor.
Patterson, who family members say was a gifted track star, was involved in the church's athletic program.
"It really rattled me that someone who came through our doors was so violently murdered,” Pastor Gibson told abc24.com.
The teen was gunned down after leaving a party in North Mississippi Sunday morning December 25, 2011. She was in the car with her 20-year old brother and two other people. Marshall County deputies say another car rolled up beside the group on Mississippi Highway 72 and fired several shots. Patterson was killed and three others were injured.
"Where in the world does someone get an assault rifle to drive by in the middle of Highway 72? I mean who gets that mad," Pastor Gibson said.
Deputies arrested 31-year-old Corey Albright on Dec. 27 in connection with the drive-by shooting, and a 16-year-old was also taken into custody Thursday night.
Pastor Gibson wants parents to be more involved in their children's lives and hopes another family won't have to go through a tragedy like this again.
Family and friends describe Derica Patterson as a great athlete and a hard working student but all of that promise was cut short by a bullet. Carol Dye says her daughter was the joy of her life, a good kid who stayed out of trouble. Her only hope now is for justice. She wants her daughter's killers to either get the death penalty or spend life behind bars.
“It's hard. It's exhausting. I can't sleep," said Patterson’s mother.
Carol Dye says she's lost without her "baby girl."
"They took my joy, my strength,” Dye said. “She was my only girl, I had 8 kids."
The past few days she says have been a blur. Dye is thankful Marshall County deputies are working around the clock to track her daughter's killers.
"I can't feel pity for anybody else's family that was involved in my baby's death because we're mourning and we're hurting too. He took a good person from us and it's hard on us everyday," she said.
"I know he can run but he can't hide. He'll eventually be caught,” Dye said of suspect Rico Fleming, who remains at large. "I want him to know he took someone special from me."
Derica's mom loved her so much she tattooed her daughter's name and dates of when she lived on her right cheek.
"This tattoo means the world to me. No matter what people say or how they feel about it, I want to show it and I want it to be known."
Dye says her daughter never missed a day of school and had big plans for the future, including college.
"She ran track. She had so many medals. She was wonderful. She helped me cook and she did all my grocery shopping."
In what should be a season of joy, the family mourns and says the holidays will never be the same.
"I just threw everything away that had to deal with Christmas. I didn't know why I still had it, she's not going to see it anyway," Dye said.
“I want my baby back. Ain't no New Year's for me because they left me in 2011 with tragedy on my baby."
Derica Patterson's funeral will be at the Olivet Fellowship Baptist Church located at 4450 Knight Arnold Road at 1:00pm.
If you have any information on the whereabouts of Rico Fleming contact the Marshall County Sheriff's Department at (662) 252-1311 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-729-2169.