Family and friends of 24-year-old murder victim Blake Bernard Berry are hosting a car wash at a Columbus Auto Zone Friday to raise funds for Berry's funeral costs.
The event kicked off behind the 3580 Victory Drive business at 8 a.m. and brought in at least $500 in donations before noon, said Berry's older sister Maisha Baker. The car wash concludes at sunset, but the public can continue to make donations at any Wells Fargo.
Berry was shot and killed at an unknown Columbus location on Independence Day, Columbus Police said. He was transported to the Midtown Medical Center Emergency Room in a private vehicle at 4:30 a.m.
Baker, 26, said she was crushed to hear that her younger brother was wounded, but she remained hopeful that he would survive. Instead, Berry's family and friends were faced with devastating news that they said changed their lives forever.
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Berry, one of nine siblings, was pronounced dead of a gunshot wound during surgery at 6:24 a.m., Deputy Muscogee County Coroner Freeman Worley said.
"I've been having so many emotions going through me," Baker said. "It's been sad. It's been crazy."
Baker said Berry had plenty to look forward to before his death. He was days shy of his 25th birthday, she added.
Baker recalled some of the most pleasant moments she had with the "goofy" brother who always kept her laughing.
"He's was always writing me on Facebook everyday, asking me what I cooked," she said. "He would come over there at 2 o'clock in the morning to get something to eat."
Reginald Sharp, 15, said he couldn't even describe the pain he has felt since his brother's death. Sharp said he still has a hard time believing that the man so willing to help everyone is truly gone.
"If we needed something he was going to get it," Sharp said.
The family said they have appreciated the support they have gotten from others, especially Berry's friend Alexander Ethridge. The 22-year-old man has stayed especially close to the family since Berry's death.
Ethridge said he befriended Berry more than two years ago, and it was one of the best decisions he ever made. He even feels it's his responsibility to keep Berry's name alive.
"You can call Blake at 5 a.m. in the morning with a problem, and he's going to be there for you," Ethridge said. "He's a real friend."
Police said Berry was the second individual to die from a Columbus shooting on July 4.
Authorities were called to a separate shooting in the 1000 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and found 35-year-old Zachery Lenard Clark suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the upper body. Clark was carried to the Midtown Medical Center, where he pronounced dead at 2:39 a.m., Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan.
Police said both shootings are under investigation as homicides, which are Columbus’ sixth and seventh of the year. No arrests have been made in the deaths.
The two deaths are the first since June 19 when Decartes Reginald Baldwin, 34, was shot multiple times as he stood on the curb talking to individuals at the intersection of North Lumpkin and Cusseta roads. Police charged a man and woman in connection with Baldwin’s death.
Anyone with information in either of the shootings should contact Robbery/Homicide Unit of the Columbus Police Department at 706-653-3400.