KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- Friends, family and classmates gathered outside of the Central Academy of Excellence Wednesday afternoon to pay tribute to An'Janique Wright, just feet away from where the teen was murdered.
Around 100 people released balloons in pink and blue to memorialize the slain 15-year-old, with the balloons featuring stars for how those gathered remember An'Janique and hearts for where they are now keeping her.
An'Janique died after being shot outside the school during a basketball game Tuesday night following an altercation with another person there. Wednesday afternoon police said two “persons of interest” had been taken into custody in the case.
Family members had a simple message for those gathered, that An'Janique was loved and did not deserve to be shot. They said the 15-year-old was not enrolled at the school but was at the game to support friends playing.
An'Janique’s twin sister and her foster brother Terrion Hudson were both at the game and said their hearts were heavy with loss.
“It's tough. Even with time I feel the hurt will still be the same,” Hudson said. “Everyone is mourning and trying to be strong and speak up for her, but it's definitely hard.”
Classmates, alumni and parents who knew An'Janique were in disbelief over the killing. A classmate said this kind of violence isn’t what Central is about, while a mom said she pulled her child from the school because of violence.
“I didn’t believe it. I thought everybody was trying to play a joke. It wasn’t real. But then once I started seeing everybody say, “Rest in peace Twin,” it became real, like very real,” Tanielle Ford, who is Wright’s Friend, said.
Ni’Kia Porter, who graduated from the school last year, said it’s not perfect here, but described the scene Wednesday as “unreal.”
“Normally, everybody fighting, just fighting. Nobody ever bring out weapons,” Porter said. “Weapons are not normally the cause of nothing. That’s crazy.”
Tanielle Ford also graduated last year. She said she had a deep connection with An'Janique, who was called “Twin” by her friends, and cannot understand why her friend is gone.
“That was my sister, like I called her my sister. That was really my sister,” Ford explained. “We’ve been through so much together. We’ve cried together. We’ve laughed together. Like, why her? Why?”
Many of those gathered Wednesday afternoon were critical of security at the school when the shooting happened, with critics saying more could have been done to prevent the tragedy.
Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell responded to that criticism Wednesday, saying the issue was not just a challenge for the school but rather for the entire community.
“Gun violence is not a KCPS problem,” Bedell said. “Gun violence is a community illness that is impacting the ability of our public schools to improve and thrive.”
KCTV5 dug into the numbers in Kansas City, Missouri going back to 2014, for the percentage of homicide victims who were under the age of 25.
Granted it’s early in the year, but 2019 s the only year where that number tops 50 percent - 10 of this year’s 16 murder victims.
“We are losing our children one by one,” youth pastor Michelle Meyje said.