SUV that hit bridge near Capital Boulevard, killing 5 inside, was stolen, Raleigh police say

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Raleigh police say the SUV that crashed on Capital Boulevard Sunday, killing all five teens inside, was stolen. However, police would not say who they believe stole the vehicle.

According to a police report, it was reported stolen in mid-September.

Kourtney Strayhorn told ABC11 on Tuesday that her 17-year-old son Kamari was one of the five teens -- ages 13, 14, 14, 17, and 17 -- who died.

"When he was little he liked to play sports. He wasn't a perfect kid. He didn't walk a straight line but he was my baby and he loved hard and loved to live life," she said.

Strayhorn's 19-year-old sister Harmony got a tattoo in his honor on Tuesday. He went to South Garner High and was the oldest of nine children.

Lebron Staton, 14, also died in the crash. He went to Ligon Middle School.

Zymeer Dennis, 14, was another one of the teens who was in the SUV. He went to Wake Forest High School.

"He loved everybody," his grandfather Franklin James said on Monday. "He was a people person. All his friends, he had lots and lots of friends."

Authorities said the vehicle was traveling southbound on Capital Boulevard in the right lane at high rate of speed -- about 80 mph -- when it ran off the road and hit the concrete bridge.

The occupants were not wearing seatbelts, police said.

A GoFundMe page identified two of the other victims as 17-year-old Jeremiah Williams and 13-year-old Mi-Keal Freeman.

An investigation is still underway.

As for the information that the SUV was stolen, "I didn't know anything about that," Strayhorn said. "I know that he was not driving. Typically, Kamari wasn't able to drive but you know, kids will be kids. But he always knew safety first. So if he was in a vehicle that was stolen. I don't know about that. I can't speak on it. I just know that my son was with who he loved."

VIGIL AND BALLOON RELEASE

As the sky over southeast Raleigh darkened Tuesday night, it was filled with a somber rainbow of blue and white balloons that signaled the tragedy felt all over the faces in MLK Gardens. The community gathered for vigil and balloon release in memory of the teens.

"All he wanted to be in life was a football player. He wanted to be quarterback for the NFL," said Mi-Keal Freeman's mother, Cassandra Black, who told ABC11 many of the circumstances of the deadly wreck remain a mystery to her.

"I still have questions. I don't know why," Black said. "All I know is they were supposed to have went to a party. I'm not sure how he ended up in the car with the other boys. I don't know the answers."

Christopher Morris was at the vigil as well burning a candle for his son Jeremiah Williams.

"He's one of the kids that would change the room when he walks in," Morris said of his son. "(The crash) is something that shouldn't have happened. They should've have been at the house, not sneaking out of the house when they ain't got no business. All I can say is, parents love your kids. Do all you can for them."

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As the community comes to remember the five teens killed in a weekend crash, community advocates want to prevent similar tragedies.



PREVENTING SIMILAR TRAGEDIES

Community leaders were also grieving in the crowd; inspired to devise new ways to stop this kind of preventable heartache. Raleigh Police Chief Stella Patterson was there. The Raleigh NAACP president Gerald Givens Jr. wants to talk about a partnership.

"So that we can talk about some of the things that are impacting our community so we can give our kids opportunities," Givens said.

Community advocate Diana Powell talked about potential community solutions like more parenting skill classes, juvenile justice deterrence programs and voter education -- more resources for this part of the city. Powell spoke briefly with Chief Patterson when the chief made a brief stop at the vigil.

"(Chief Patterson) did not want to say anything so to not overshadow the community. But she just wanted to be here in support," Powell said. "(The community) has to band together, to lean on each other."

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