Denham Springs High wears red in honor of fallen classmate, 1 of 5 murdered over weekend

Updated: Jan. 28, 2019 at 7:09 PM CST
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DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - Many are still trying to come to terms with the weekend’s killings in Livingston and Ascension parishes. On Monday, Denham Springs High School decided to step in and help one of their fallen classmates and his family in their time of need.

Many students were dressed in red to pay tribute to one of their own after Denham Springs High posted to Facebook that students could wear red shirts in honor of Tanner Ernest.


“When they walk into the classroom and see an empty desk where Tanner sits, then at that point, it hits home. It becomes very real,” said Denham Springs Principal Kelly Jones.

Tanner, his sister, Summer, and their father, Billy Ernest, were shot and killed Saturday, Jan. 26 in Livingston Parish, allegedly at the hands of Dakota Theriot. From there, officials say Theriot drove to Ascension Parish, where he killed his parents, Keith and Liz Theriot, being arrested in Virginia.

The sign in front of Denham Springs High pays tribute to the Ernest family. It says: Thoughts and prayers go out to the Ernest family. Summer Ernest Class of 2017. Tanner Ernest Class of 2020

Tanner was a junior at the school.

“That jacket right there, Tanner had that jacket on 24/7. I swear, he showered in it, he slept in it, it was pretty much sewed onto his skin,” said Ethan Swilley, one of Tanner’s friends who helped organize the fundraiser at the school.

“It was my brother’s favorite color, so this is his jacket that he wore. It was his favorite, so I decided to wear it,” said Hunter Ernest.

Summer and Tanner’s younger brother, Hunter, was not at home at the time of the shootings. On Monday, the sophomore was overwhelmed by the support of his fellow students in red.

“It means a lot actually. It’s hard losing your dad, your sister, your brother in the same day, all in the same way,” said Hunter.

“Tanner, Tanner was everything. Tanner was the friend you could walk up to being mad, sad, angry, and you always knew he was going to brighten up your day. No matter what, he always has a joke for you,” said Swilley. “He would have on purple shoes, green pants, yellow shirt, and he would be looking like a bag of Skittles.”

To help the Ernest family with the cost of three funerals, Principal Jones is allowing students to forego their regular uniforms with a donation.

"What we're asking Tuesday is that students pay $3 and possibly add a donation on top of it if they can," said Jones.

"It means more than I could ever imagine. My mom is really struggling to make placements for the funeral and this is really starting to help," said Hunter.

Be it through the shoes that hold a special memory of Tanner or his jacket, the entire student body is coming together for the Ernest family.

“No matter how down they go, they know they’ll always have me,” said Swilley.

All of the proceeds from Tuesday’s free dress day will go to the Ernest family.

The family says funeral arrangements have not been set yet, but they’re asking for donations to non-profit animal organizations in honor of Summer and Tanner’s love for animals.

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