SCIOTO—A grieving community gathered to mourn the loss of Zsailynn Amari Conley—a 4-year-old boy killed in a recent shooting in the Mound Park area—at two prayer vigils honoring his memory.
Vigils at both Mound Park and Millbrook Park allowed the community to support Conley’s devastated family and friends in their grief while trying to reckon with the shocking loss themselves.
“We are here to weep with those who weep,” said Pastor David Dowdy in a service delivered at Mound Park. “The Word of God tells us in the Book of Romans: weep with those who weep. In the example of our Lord, who wept at the tomb of Lazarus shows us that we are to have compassion and sympathize with those who suffer. I believe that not just the church has gathered here but the community at large. Our hearts go out to [Zsailynn’s] family […] as they mourn and grieve his death,” Dowdy said.
“What has happened in this place is an unspeakable evil,” he added.
A memorial created by community members adorned a tree in Mound Park. Mourners placed flowers, stuffed animals, and small toys encircling Conley’s memorial as they gathered, stunned and saddened by such unimaginable tragedy.
Zsailynn’s mother, Ashley Trent, wept as loved ones embraced her. Saddened members of the community hoped that in spite of being unable to grasp such a senseless act of violence, their presence would allow Trent to know that she and her family are loved and supported by their neighborhood.
4th Ward Councilwoman Lyvette Mosley gathered with mourners and echoed the sentiment that the community shares in Conley’s loved ones’ grief.
“When they hurt, I hurt too. I wanted to make that connection with all of the family members and the people in the ward. It means a lot,” Mosley said.
“We are hurting,” she added. “Especially when you’re community oriented and you’re connected to a community of people, whether you know them or not you hear things about what’s going on in the community; it affects all of us.”
A second vigil and candlelight service at Millbrook Park was later observed by Conley’s family, friends, and mourners. Village Roots Childcare Center, the center where Conley attended daycare, offered the event to the community with Pastor Chris Keaton leading the service.
Community resources including clergy and crisis response counseling were made available to Conley’s family, friends, and the other gathered mourners at each service. The Scioto County Crisis Response team was present at the Millbrook Park vigil for anyone in attendance who needed help processing their grief.
“Everyone here tonight has been touched by Zsai, and will continue to be in the days ahead,” Keaton said in a speech delivered to the crowd. Keaton acknowledged that such painful tragedy is difficult to reckon with, but said that the impression Conley left on all who knew him would never be forgotten.
“While we never will know why things happen, we resolve to not let Zsai’s passing be in vain. Because tonight is not just a remembrance; tonight is a promise for each of us. We promise tonight to remember Zsai’s smile, to remember his laughter, his innocence, and his joy. We promise to hold this family close along with the workers and the children who spent each day with Zsai and we will hold them up long after the light from tonight’s candles have faded,” Keaton said.
“We will move forward as a community with the resolve that we will do all that we can to ensure that our homes and our neighborhood and our city are safe and that violence finds no safe haven here,” he concluded.
For many who attended the respective vigils, Conley was much more than a child at the center of a tragic act of violence. He was a kind, big-hearted little boy who loved dinosaurs. He was a prankster who loved to play silly tricks on his mother. He had just learned to ride his bike. And his absence has weighed heavily upon all who knew him, as well as the community Conley called home.
Addressing the gathered mourners through tears, Conley’s mother expressed her gratitude to the community and reminisced on the memories of her son which made her smile despite the enormous weight of her pain.
“He was a jokester, he was a prankster, he was full of life; anybody that knew him knew that he just…he lit up a room when he came in it. [He had] the biggest laugh you’ve ever heard,” Trent said.
According to the Portsmouth Police Department, the investigation into Conley’s shooting is ongoing. Anyone with any information regarding the shooting — which occurred around 11:35 p.m. on June 12 — may contact the Portsmouth Police Department at (740) 353-4101 or the detective division at (740) 354-1600.
Reach Kasie McCreary at (740) 353-3101 at [email protected]
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