NEW IBERIA, La. (KLFY) – The life and remembrance of Jermaine Riles, 49, lives on as community members and activists reflect on his personality and call for justice in his case. 

“He was a young man who was a very industrious young man, a very hardworking young man who went to work. He was not a street person, was not a street figure, and did not have a street reputation of any kind,” said Donavon Davis, a community activist. 

According to New Iberia Police, Riles was shot and killed last week, a day after Christmas, in the 100 block of Dark Alley. Bystanders brought Riles to the hospital, where he died from his injuries. 

“We know today that youngsters, young people live by the principle of the gun, and there really is no way for them to reason their way out of different things,” Davis said. “When they face circumstances, grim circumstances, they don’t reason their way out of things. They don’t resort to prayer or meditation to find alternative ways to make things better.”

Davis said he knew of Riles from the neighborhood and through his cousin Cory Riles, in addition to knowing the latest murder victim from growing up around Hopkins St. and meeting him at social occasions. The news of his death came as a surprise to many. 

“A sad ending to his life,” Davis said. “A life that has been cut short badly. His family is destroyed. The community is destroyed. We know that gun violence has become a major public health risk today in the modern times that we’re living in.”  

“It’s just unbelievable. The day after Christmas, I guess God just needed one of his soldiers,” said a man who wishes to remain anonymous. 

He added that during the holidays of Christmas and New Year, a lot of people “get lost.” He recently lost his niece to a medical issue and said, “the loss of one of my nieces and dealing with the loss of Jermaine and her is a lot to deal with.” 

The family held a candlelight vigil for Riles on New Year’s Eve and wished something could have been done to prevent his death. Community members said it is time to come together and bring back love, unity, and respect.

“We wish we could have mediators and family-oriented people who can stand up within our communities who can help stave off situations like this because Jemaine died, but he didn’t have to die,” said Davis. “We need accountability. We need family accountability; we need community accountability. We need people that will come up and will stand in their community.” 

Police are still searching for suspect Stevie Vital, 36, who is wanted for second-degree murder. 

Police warn that Vital has a history of violence and should be considered armed and dangerous. 

If you know of Vital’s whereabouts, contact the NIPD or Crime Stoppers at 337-364-TIPS.