James Banks stood before the crowd in the large lecture hall and spoke about biblical heroes like Moses, and how the Bible says they lived hundreds of years.
“It took them all those years to be recognized as heroes,” Mr. Banks said. “But our Demitri, he became a hero at 21.”
Nearly 100 people packed an auditorium at the Suffolk County Community College Eastern Campus on Monday morning to celebrate the life of Demitri Hampton, the young man killed in a Flanders home invasion last week.
Mr. Hampton was shot in the chest trying to protect his girlfriend and family from masked intruders.
Mr. Banks, the coordinator of multi-cultural affairs at the school who worked with Mr. Hampton in a volunteer group, lead the ceremony.
Many of Mr. Hampton’s relatives and classmates spoke as well.
The crowd laughed as people told stories about how Mr. Hampton would joke around — then cried during songs sung in his honor at the event.
Around the room, small corkboard displays showed Mr. Hampton smiling in family photos.
Mr. Hampton’s mother, Juanita Trent, thanked the crowd for their support and urged them not to turn their back on their faith in the wake of tragedy.
“I want you all to know that I didn’t cry my last tear, but I’m at peace, because I know the God I serve, he’s going to carry us through,” Ms. Trent said. “I’m not about the vengeance. God has given me strength.”
Mourners gave her a standing ovation after her speech.
Frances Acevedo, Mr. Hampton’s girlfriend, spoke at the service and read from poems she wrote about Mr. Hampton after his death.
“I cry, hold my head up high, and look to the sky, and say see you later, because I know it’s not goodbye,” Ms. Acevedo said. After reading her poems, she walked over to where she was sitting next to Mr. Hampton’s family members and embraced them.
Jason Sims, Mr. Hampton’s closest friends, said the two were “like two peas in a pod.”
He told the crowd they would often talk about their futures and how to better themselves.
“[Demitri] always said, ‘Yo Sims. I want to try to make it. I don’t want to die a nobody,’ ” Mr. Sims said. “I just wish I could tell him he didn’t die a nobody.
“He died my best friend, a good person.”