JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A café in Springfield is closed Thursday night in remembrance of one of its employees that was killed in a drive-by shooting overnight.
Police have identified the victim as Jerry Brown, a 22-year-old Jacksonville man who was gunned down in Northwest Jacksonville.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was called to 3500 Henrietta Street, not far from where the 20th Street Expressway turns into U.S. 1 shortly after midnight Thursday.
Police said it appeared to be a drive-by shooting.
Brown’s family told News4Jax that he was a good man who mentored other young men, sang in the church choir and was a barista at a local coffee shop.
“I just I don't understand,” Chevie Green, a cousin of the victim said. “And that's what we keep trying to just understand like why? Why would they hurt an innocent boy?”
Brown’s family is heartbroken, struggling to deal with the death of a loved one they called a gentle giant.
Ladonna Green, an aunt of Brown’s said it just doesn’t make any sense.
“It's been so much things happening in Grand Park but we just never thought we just never thought that anything would happen to my nephew because he wasn't that kid,” Ladonna Green. “I could see if he said something, did something or if somebody didn't like him. Everybody loved him.”
On Wednesday Brown went to work, attended choir practice at Greater Beulah Missionary Baptist in Northwest Jacksonville, stopped by a friend’s house to help them finish painting a wall, then went to his aunt’s house. His family believe he was sitting outside his aunt’s house using Wi-Fi when someone shot him.
Both Green women said Brown had an amazing voice and you couldn’t help but be encouraged by it. Chevie Green said Brown loved God and loved to sing at his own church and was music director at another church. That’s part of the reason why she couldn’t believe someone shot him as he sat in front of his aunt’s house in his car.
That's my baby cousin,” Chevie Green said. “He’s never had an arrest, never a referral, never anything, he was an angel; he was an angel.”
Chevie Green said Brown loved his family and went to Raines High, where he volunteered with young men after he graduated. He was born and raised in Springfield, where he still lived, and worked, at 3 Layers Café.
Chevie Green owns the restaurant and closed it Thursday, but still people came by to show their respects.
“I just had to because Jerry, he was, he was a gentle giant,” Chevie Green said. “He was just eager and he gave his last, his all, everything. He put everything and all of him into anything that he did.”
Those sentiments were seen outside Brown’s place of work Thursday evening as people laid flowers to honor the young man.
“We know that he believed in God and his faith was very strong; that's going to take us the rest of the way,” Ladonna Green said.
Yolanda Copeland would see Brown almost every day at the restaurant.
“When I come in, he would call me Yole, ‘hey Yole,’ that was Jerry,” Copeland said. "’Hey Yole, welcome I'm so glad to see you.’ That's how he was and I don't think you would find anyone who would have a bad word for him.’”
That’s what is making this so hard for his family to understand. They don’t know who would want to hurt Brown. As police work to answer that question, his family hopes someone will come forward to help them.
“The reason why we feel someone should come forward is because it could be their child,” Chevie Green said. “The next victim. If someone is out there just picking people just picking them off then we need to stand up.”
Brown's other aunt runs the cafe where he worked and asked not to be named.
"All he did was go to church. He hung out with his cousins. That's all," said Brown's aunt. "He loved everybody. There's a lot of people that are hurting behind this."
Brown’s aunt said he never got in any trouble or had any gang affiliations.
"He wasn't affiliated with anybody who was in a gang. This is some random act of violence that someone has taken. They don't even know who they killed. He was not the person. If you were looking for somebody, he was not the person. He wasn't it."
Brown's loved ones are asking for the person responsible for his killing to surrender to police.
February 16, would have been Brown’s 23rd birthday. Instead of celebrating his birthday, the family will be having a fundraiser here at 3 Layers Café to raise reward money for information leading to an arrest in his death.
Anyone with any information on the shooting is asked to contact the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous and receive a possible reward up to $3,000, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.