Hundreds gather to remember 15-year-old Preston Gamble at vigil in Calverton


That was the age of Riverhead High School student Preston Gamble, who was shot and killed during a dispute in Calverton Wednesday.

It was also the number participants counted to in a somber candlelit vigil before releasing orange, black and silver balloons into the evening sky in his memory.

Nearly 200 mourners came to the Calverton Hills condominium complex Thursday night to remember Gamble. Dressed in bright orange and holding balloons, participants gathered outside his family’s home and walked together up Hill Rise, where candles were set up. Some wrote messages such as “4EverFriend” and “Forever 15” on their balloons.


After a moment of silence, during which many sobbed audibly, Cynthia Brunskill, a member of a new Yaphank-based nonprofit, We Lead By Example, addressed the youth and parents gathered there.

“I see all of y’all, you’re hurting, I’m hurting. We have to do better by our young men, our young women,” Brunskill said. “We have to do better.”

The organization, founded three months ago, seeks to show kids “other options,” and help guide and support young people who lack father figures in their lives, according to co-founder Brian Stokley. There were eight members of the organization at the gathering to provide support, many of whom also spoke during the vigil. The organization has 15 members and is growing, Mr. Stokley said.

He warned kids of the dangers of violence and gangs.

“I know about that life,” Mr. Stokley said. “Trust me kids, you don’t want to live that life because you’re not about that life.”


The shooting occurred on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. Suffolk County police were called to the complex shortly before 4 p.m. after a dispute broke out between two groups of teens.

Suffolk County Police Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer, head of the homicide squad, said Wednesday that the altercation began as a fist fight. “The dispute erupted into gunfire and a teenage boy was killed,” he said. Det. Lt. Beyrer did not speculate on whether the incident was gang related or what caused the fight to break out initially.

Gamble was taken by family members to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, where he was pronounced dead.

A heavy law enforcement presence remained at the scene through Wednesday evening as the search for a suspect continued. A mobile crime unit was called to the scene and officers also employed the use of a drone to search the surrounding area. Police were still present at the complex Thursday.

In a call to district families Wednesday, Riverhead superintendent Dr. Augustine Tornatore confirmed that Preston was a high school student. “It is with the deepest sorrow that we inform you this evening that a Riverhead High School student was a victim of an act of violence that occurred in our community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the student’s family and friends at this time.”

Counselors were made available Thursday for all students, faculty and staff districtwide and additional support measures will be assessed as needed.

Promise Trent, 23, a resident of Calverton Hills for over seven years, attended Thursday’s vigil and said seeing the support from residents was heartwarming.

“Everybody loved him,” she said. “He was a really good kid.”

Ms. Trent said she knew Preston since he was 6-years old. She described him as funny and athletic, sometimes seeing him play basketball as early as 5 a.m.

She said residents and community members want answers.

“Why’d it get that far … was it over something stupid, could it have been prevented?” she asked. “It’s honestly sad.”

As of Thursday night, a suspect had yet to be identified and the investigation remains active. Anyone with information is asked to contact homicide squad detectives at 631-852-6392 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.