When Robert Dentmond joined the basketball team two years ago, he told his coach he just wanted to be a part of something.
On Thursday, his team showed him he was.
They wore hunter green shirts to his funeral. Printed on the back was his number – 13 – and the words “R.I.P. Robert Dentmond.”
“We will always love him – number 13 is being retired in honor of Robert,” said Beatrice Sheppard, who stood with representatives from Dentmond’s basketball team, the Amateur Athletics Union’s NMB Shooters.
About 200 filled the pews at Ignite Life Center in Gainesville to remember the 16-year-old who was killed by law enforcement on March 20.
At about 10:07 p.m., he called police threatening to shoot himself. He was armed with a replica of an AR-15 assault rifle.
After failing to follow their orders, officers and deputies fired shots.
On Thursday, loved ones from Dentmond’s birth state of Michigan as well as those living in Gainesville paid their respects.
Some wore black, and others wore white shirts spray painted with his photo and a pair of angel wings.
Tears welled and people embraced from across the pews.
They all remembered the son, the brother, the friend, the athlete.
But some still have a lot of unanswered questions.
Those will remain unanswered until the Florida Department of Law Enforcement completes its investigation, said Alachua County Commissioner Charles Chestnut IV.
To Chestnut, “the celebration of life is the most important part at this point.“ Chestnut’s family business, Chestnut Funeral Home, handled the procession.
He said Dentmond’s remains will be shipped to Michigan, where his dad lives.
“As a funeral director, it makes it hard and tough to always see young adults or children lose their lives,” Chestnut said.
But, as a commissioner, Chestnut wants law enforcement to reach out to the community and youth and form a relationship.
He wants to provide the community a chance to vent and prevent this from happening again.
Dentmond’s basketball team promised to live in memory of him.
His coach, Tevin Avriett, remembers his smile.
He was the tallest one on the basketball team, Avriett said, and didn’t know too much about basketball when he first started. He kept working hard.
He recalls the team’s fourth game last year at ESPN Walt Disney before their championship game in Tallahassee.
“Our game (team) was down five points, and I forgot what joke he said, but after he said it, we came back in like 30 seconds,” he said.
Dentmond lifted up the spirits of team members who wore his number Thursday.
“We’re going to try to win a couple games for him,” Avriett said.
Pastor Jarvis Henderson remembered Dentmond, a boy who laughed at his own jokes. You couldn’t tell he was hurting just by looking at him, he said. The boy’s smile could light up a room.
Henderson looked out into the pews and pictured Dentmond there, in the audience, jumping and praying.
“This is not something to break us. This is not something to tear us down,” he spoke of the teen’s death. “This is something that should snap something on the inside.”
He urged the crowd to live for Robert. He urged them to smile.
“It’s okay to smile; give me a real smile,” he told them. “Robert would be smiling.”