Family forced to move memorial for father killed in Jacksonville Beach

Memorial was placed on private property, owner called police

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – A family waiting for answers in the shooting death of their loved one in Jacksonville Beach was forced to relocate the memorial site for the father of two.

Leon Bennett, 23, was shot to death near the intersection of 7th Avenue and 1st Street early Sunday morning. The memorial was placed on private property, and the property owner called police.

After officers informed the family, the memorial was moved Thursday afternoon to an area on public property, where police said it could be placed under a palm tree.

Ed Kelly, Leon Bennett's grandfather said he was sweeping the sidewalk in front of his grandson's memorial site when a woman approached him and began complaining about the memorial.

According to Kelly, the woman called Bennett a "thug" and said "people like him deserve to die."

"He was nothing near that," Kelly said. "It's terrible to be stereotyped like that."

Bennett's grandfather and mother, Rhonda Kelly, said they were offended, and that Bennett was a straight-laced father of two young children. Rhonda Kelly said she believes her son's race played a factor in the woman's comments.

"Everyone will have to excuse me. But if it was some white rich child, it would be beautified out here and not shunned upon," Rhonda Kelly said.

Bennett will be laid to rest Saturday afternoon at the Arlington Park Funeral Home.

Struck twice with tragedy

As Jacksonville Beach Police look for who killed Bennett, his family is still dealing with another tragedy.

WATCH: Family deals with two tragedies

Family told News4Jax Bennett was a cousin to Maurice Hobbs, who was fatally shot January 2017 in the Southside Estates neighborhood of Jacksonville. He had just turned 18-years-old two days prior.

Hobbs' killer has not been arrested.

"It’s very tragic. I remember us and my children being at Maurice’s funeral and how detrimental it was to all of us, especially Leon (Bennett) because they were supposed to produce music together,” Kelly said.

Family said Hobbs was an up-and-coming rap artist. According to Kelly, the family was focused on bringing attention to Hobbs' murder by taking part in a stop the violence walk. They were hoping the event would lead to new information about the killer, but the family canceled the walk after Bennett's death.

“I pray no other no other parent has to go through this, but unfortunately, I know they will," Kelly said.

About the Author:

Award-winning broadcast and multimedia journalist with 20 years experience.