Haeleigh Stamper, second teen killed in Bay St. Louis mass shooting, mourned at candlelight vigil

Published: May. 1, 2023 at 11:35 PM CDT
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BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WVUE) - Students and parents from across coastal Mississippi united in prayer at a candlelight vigil for the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting at a high school prom after-party.

A friend of 16-year-old Haeleigh Stamper identified the Hancock High junior as one of the two teenagers fatally shot. The other slain teen -- 18-year-old De’Arreis Smith -- was identified by family members Sunday.

With heavy hearts at a private prayer service Monday evening (May 1), the Bay St. Louis community showed its support for the Stamper family.

Best friend Tori Jones says her friendship with Stamper was written in the stars.

“My mom met her mom, and my mom was like, ‘Oh my god, this is my childhood best friend,’” Jones said. “So, we used to always say that we were second-generation best friends, and that our kids were going to be third-generation best friends, and that we’re going to raise them up together.

“We had so many plans for the future.”

Those plans ended when, according to police, 19-year-old Cameron Brand opened fire at a prom after-party early Sunday morning. Stamper and Smith were killed and four other teens wounded.

“She never knew for sure what she wanted to do, but she knew she wanted to help people,” Jones said. “She wanted to make a change in this world. She always knew she was meant to have a big purpose in life. And whether or not she feels it, everybody here knows that she fulfilled that purpose. Because she changed all of our lives in the best way possible.”

Jones said it was hard to imagine the future without her close friend.

“It didn’t matter what happened. If I told her I had a bad day at school, I wouldn’t have to ask her or tell her, she was at my house with pickles, because that was Haeleigh,” Jones said. “She loved her pickles.”

Students and staff were back on campus Monday, with mental health support services on site.

“We’re going to roll up our sleeves, we’re going to support each other, and we’re going to love each other,” said Hancock County Schools superintendent Rhett Ladner. “We’re going to take care of one another.”

For Jones, it was just too much to handle.

“I did not go to school today. I couldn’t do it,” she said. “That was my sister. I need time. I know a few friends that did go to school. They were sending me pictures of empty classroom after empty classroom after empty classroom.”

Ladner said, “The main thing is giving everyone an option on how they need to be supported. Some kids like to talk through it, some kids like to be by themselves. So, we’re making both those options available.”

As they lean on each other, those in the Hancock High community said they will try to “Live like Haeleigh.”

GoFundMe campaigns have been set up to help the families of both Stamper and Smith with funeral arrangements. Collectively, the fundraisers had accrued more than $10,000 by Monday night.

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