‘I want our survivors to feel loved:’ Vigil held in Neptune Beach to honor gun violence victims

NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. — A local group hosted a candlelight vigil Sunday to honor those impacted by gun violence and their loved ones.

The event was led by the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action and is part of annual National Gun Violence Survivors Week.

Local survivors were encouraged to bring a memento to share. Photos and flowers were spread across the sand.


Dominic Broadus Sr. lost his son to gun violence.

“It acts like therapy -- a little therapy because you’re going through it,” Broadus Sr. said.

Dominic “DJ” Broadus II was found dead in Macclenny, on Feb. 3, 2022.

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“He was shot four times,” Broadus Sr. said. “The first two times did not kill him. It was the last two execution styles in the back of the head that killed him.”

Rhonda Philips lost her son Leon Bennett on June 24, 2018 in Jacksonville Beach.

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“He was a brick to our family,” Philips said. “He loved his family. He loved events. He loved everything. He kept us together, and it’s been different since he’s left.”

Bennett leaves behind two boys who were also at the event Sunday.

“It’s a surreal type of moment -- to just have people surrounding us that have not been affected or may have been affected who are just out here to support us, love us and be here for today,” Philips said.

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Action News Jax spoke with Katie Hathaway, a volunteer with the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action.

“National Gun Violence Survivors Week is the first week of February because by this point in time more people are killed with guns in America than are killed in peer countries in an entire calendar year,” Hathaway said. “That puts the scope of America’s gun violence crisis into perspective.”

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According to the CDC, more Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2020 than in any other year on record -- 45,222.

“I want our survivors to feel loved and for them to know that their loved ones are always going to be remembered,” Hathaway said.

Read: Florida Chapter of Moms Demand Action gather to honor gun violence survivors

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