JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Many students at Riverside High came to school Friday wearing red to show their love for 17-year-old Michael “Prince” Walton, who was killed Saturday only a few blocks from his high school -- where he was headed to take the ACT.
The senior class and his basketball team held a memorial ceremony Friday at the school’s outdoor basketball courts for the “caring, compassionate, genuine” teen who was killed over the weekend in a hit-and-run near Murray Hill.
During the emotional ceremony, the school presented Prince’s jersey to his parents, Renee and Michael Walton, to display at his funeral service Saturday.
Right now — A special celebration at Riverside High to honor 17 y/o Michael ‘Prince’ Walton who was killed in a hit-and-run crash over the weekend. Students are dressed in red to remember their friend. ‘Be like Mike #2’ is written in chalk on the court. @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/Q10Bk0kyW0— Brittany Muller (@BrittMullerNews) September 17, 2021
“It’s amazing to see all the love you have for our son,” Renee Walton said. “We thank you for all the hard work and dedication you put into this event. On behalf of our son, Michael, we want you to know we love you.”
Dozens of loved ones gathered Saturday wearing shades of blue at Philippian Community Church on New Kings Road for Prince’s funeral. A procession of motorcyclists paid their respects before the service.
Renee Walton said Friday’s memorial at the school was heartwarming. During the ceremony, her son’s teammates dunked a basketball in honor of their late friend.
“We still don’t believe this is real and everything so we’re just trying to keep our heads up as a team and stick together,” said Trent Watson, one of Prince’s teammates. “He just kept all our energy up. If he came around us, he just would keep our heads up when we were down. He was like a motivator to all of us.”
Coach David Jones said Prince was the kind of player you wanted others to emulate.
“You just want to be the kind of kid he was. I mean he was caring, compassionate,” Jones said.
Prince was a leader on and off the basketball court. A teacher told News4Jax he was the “definition of a great student.”
“He loved to inspire others to motivate others to be their best whether it was students, teachers,” Renee Walton said.
The friend to many and loving son had been eager to go to college and study physical therapy.
“He was a real, genuine lover of people,” Michael Walton said. “No matter who you were. He loved people.”
During Friday’s ceremony, the school community laid red roses around writing on the court that read — “be like Mike #2.” His father, Michael, said he was a mentor to all.
“He inspired young and old. He was one that never met a stranger. If he saw that you needed something, he would give whatever he had. He was that kind of guy,” Michael Walton said.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said a man who was driving a 2022 Hyundai Sonata ran a red light before causing the crash. Investigators said the man then abandoned the crashed vehicle and entered a silver vehicle on Edgewood Avenue, possibly a rideshare car.
Prince’s mother had an emotional message for the driver who left him and didn’t call 911.
“We know that you’re probably scared, but put yourself in our shoes and just do the right thing and turn yourself in,” she said.
Prince’s family and friends hope the driver is caught so they can get justice and have closure.
“It’s one thing to damage a vehicle, or to damage something material, but you took a life. A life right there -- he would have cared for you,” Michael Walton said.
Police are still looking for the driver who abandoned the vehicle at the scene of the hit-and-run crash. If you know anything, call investigators at 904-630-0500.