MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Friends and associates of slain rapper Young Dolph handed out Thanksgiving turkeys at a neighborhood church Friday in Memphis, Tennessee, two days after he was gunned down in broad daylight inside his favorite bakery.
Known for acts of charity in his hometown, the hip-hop artist and label owner had helped organize the event at St. James Missionary Baptist Church and was going to participate before he was fatally shot Wednesday.
Undaunted, members of his music label, Paper Route Empire, along with church volunteers and community activists, distributed dozens of turkeys, stuffing mix and cranberry sauce — and said “happy Thanksgiving” — to people driving past the church.
It was the type of event Young Dolph, who grew up in the Castalia neighborhood where the church is located, has been organizing for years, often without the reporters and cameras present Friday. Before the event, volunteers spoke quietly among themselves or sat in solemn reflection as his music played outside the church on the sunny afternoon.
Label employee Bee Bee Jones, 38, helped hand out the food, honoring his friend of 30 years.
“When I hear his music, I just break down,” said Jones, who spoke with a reporter while sitting on the rear bumper of a U-Haul truck full of 300 turkeys. “The truth in all of it, and where he came from, that’s what really gets to me sometimes. This is what he would want us to do right here, still keep on giving. He came from nothing, but he wanted to make sure everybody got some.”
Police on Friday kept searching for suspects in the killing, which shook Memphis and shocked the entertainment world. Police have released photos taken from surveillance video that shows two men exiting a white Mercedes and shooting Young Dolph before fleeing.
The killing of Young Dolph, 36, whose real name was Adolph Thornton Jr., intensified cries against violence in the Memphis area, which has seen high-profile shootings at a K-8 school, a post office and a grocery store in the past two months.
This year, 255 killings have been committed in the city of Memphis, already surpassing the 244 slayings last year, the Memphis Police Department reported. That’s in addition to thousands of gun-related incidents reported through this past September.
In a statement about Young Dolph’s killing, Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Michelle Taylor called gun violence in Memphis an epidemic.
“The key to addressing the endless cycle of shootings and retaliatory shootings in our community is to heal the generational trauma that makes violence appear to be the only solution to conflict,” Taylor said.
Some community leaders have expressed frustration that so many attempts to address gun-related crime — community meetings, efforts to add police officers, increased crime prevention funding, days of remembrance for murder victims, working with former gang members to intervene in disputes — have not worked.