An estimated 150 people attended a vigil Wednesday at Sterling Field in West Hartford.
By Ronni Newton
Family, friends, former teachers and coaches, and others in the community gathered in West Hartford Wednesday to pay tribute to 20-year-old Jonathan Douglin who was fatally stabbed just after midnight on New Year’s Day at a party in Hartford.
Wednesday’s candlelight vigil was held at Sterling Field, adjacent to Charter Oak International Academy where Douglin and his siblings all attended elementary school. Sterling Field is also the home of the West Hartford Youth Football League, where Douglin, who went on to play football as well as lacrosse at Conard High School, spent many hours. A vigil was previously held on Tuesday evening outside the Eight Sixty Custom Skate Shop on Francis Ave. in Hartford where the stabbing took place.
“It was really a senseless tragedy that ended a great man’s life far too soon,” said EJ Volpe, a friend who attended Conard High School and played football with Douglin. “He was a passionate, friendly, and loyal individual.”
Dawn Hyland was Douglin’s second grade teacher at Charter Oak. “He was so quiet, so sweet,” she said. “He always wanted to be with his mother,” Hyland said. Douglin’s mother, Sonia, uses a wheelchair and Douglin has always helped take care of her.
“The day before Christmas the family donated toys to the Family Resource Center,” said Charter Oak Curriculum Specialist Kirsten Sanderson. “This is an unspeakable tragedy.”
Anti-violence advocate Rev. Henry Brown, of Mothers United Against Violence, and Bishop James Curry led the crowd in prayer. “Turn away from the violence that is within our own hearts as we remember Jon, as we reach out to one another … lead us into peace,” Curry said.
Brown asked all the other 20-year-olds in the crowd – and there were many – to come forward and “take a stand against senseless violence.” He urged everyone to show love and support, to do something good in Douglin’s honor.
“Justice will be done,” Brown said. He urged the crowd not to retaliate with more violence. “This is about you getting your life right,” said Brown.
Nicole Douglin, the oldest of the five Douglin children, thanked everyone for coming out and showing the family support. “It has such an obscene tragedy that none of us would have ever expected for our youngest baby brother.”
“I can’t tell you how distressed we are over this,” said Nicole. “I pray that none of our friends out here have to have their mothers and their sisters get that call. I pray that God watches over them so that they get to go home to their mothers at night and their sisters and brothers.”
Nicole said that she was glad the vigil could be held at Sterling Field behind Charter Oak. “This was where [we had] some of the best times we ever had in our lives, where we met our lifelong friends, and where we have teachers that have showed us so much love,” said Nicole.
“This wasn’t a fight when Jon had a black eye and wouldn’t look the same. Jon isn’t going to be here ever again on this earth because of this,” Nicole said.
“This is where it all started for Jon, where he found his first love of football. I know for a fact that Jon would have loved to be here with everybody he grew up with, played against. He’s a great brother, great best friend,” said Matt Douglin.
“We were just a year apart, he was basically my twin,” Matt said.
Matt can’t understand how or why the stabbing happened, and said to the best of his knowledge his brother and Walwyn did not know each other.
“I don’t know how he could have done this, what his motive was, what forced him to do this, why he felt he had to do this. He said afterward he had no choice but I really don’t know.” According to court documents, Walwyn said after the incident, “I had no choice. I had to poke him.”
“How could his mom, how could his friends be posting on social media trying to support someone like this,” Matt said. “We don’t retaliate to anything like that,” Matt said.
According to the obituary, the Douglin family will receive family and friends at Calvary Church, 1855 Albany Ave., West Hartford, on Thursday, Jan. 7, from 5 – 8 p.m., and on Friday, Jan. 8, from 10 – 11 a.m., followed by a Homegoing Service at 11 a.m. on Friday.
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