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Vigil for slain teenager: ‘I just miss him’

Gathering marks year anniversary of shooting victim’s death

Dozens of friends and relatives of Devon Pfirsching met at the Cesare Battisti Club in Altoona on the one-year anniversary of his death on Thursday evening. Many remembered the 15-year-old for his smile, which “brought light to everything.” Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

On Thursday, one year after 15-year-old Devon Pfirsching was killed in an Altoona alley, members of the community gathered in his memory for a candlelight vigil at the parking lot of Cesare Battisti Club and Banquet Hall on Beale Avenue.

Last February, the teenager was killed when three of his peers allegedly lured him to the Fourth Avenue Alley under the guise of a marijuana deal.

On Thursday evening, dozens of community members, friends and family stood in a circle, candles in hand, and shared stories about Pfirsching. People took turns going to the center of the circle to speak, sharing what Pfirsching meant to them.

Pfirsching’s pastor and family friend Jim Kilmartin opened by telling the story of the parable of the good Samaritan, imploring Pfirsching’s loved ones to “keep Devon in (their hearts).”

“It’s absolutely beautiful that you’re gathered here,” Kilmartin said. “We need each other to get through this situation. It’s tragic, but this is where friends and family come together.”

Dylan Auker, 21, of Altoona, cousin of Devon Pfirsching, attends the vigil, which was organized by family. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

Kilmartin concluded his remarks with a prayer, asking God to “bring healing and bring restoration to a difficult situation.”

After the prayer, someone yelled out, “Long live Devon.”

The senior pastor of Center City Church, Kilmartin has known Pfirsching’s family for “a number of years,” and said he’s glad to have been able to finally gather with the community to mourn Pfirsching’s death, because the pandemic had prevented them from doing so for a year.

“Shortly after the funeral, the COVID shutdown happened,” Kilmartin said after the vigil. “There really wasn’t the opportunity to work through a lot of this, so seeing the number of people here, family and friends, this gives everybody the opportunity to celebrate Devon and reminisce and mourn.

“It’s really important and it’s amazing to see the number of people that have come out,” he said.

Many in the group said they remembered fondly the teen’s smile, which “brought light to everything,” according to Kevin Hook, Pfirsching’s close friend, whom he said was a cousin to him.

“He was just one of a kind,” Hook said. “I’m not blood or anything like that, but his family brought me in. That kid means a lot to everybody, obviously, you can see it out here.”

Hook added that Pfirsching’s death was “a shame” and “shouldn’t have happened,” and said he and the teen’s loved ones “would get justice for it.”

Hook and a few others in the crowd wore Pittsburgh Steelers jerseys that read ‘D. Pfirsching’ and had the number 24 for Pfirsching’s birthday, Aug. 24.

Tyrone Miller, a childhood friend of Pfirsching, said he remembers him by listening to the music he liked.

“I have some of his songs on my playlist now that I go back to listen to and remember him,” Miller said. “I just miss him.”

Mirror Staff Writer Andrew Mollenauer is at 814-946-7428.

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