UPDATE 3: Mother of shooting victim speaks out
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - Gilda Fennell's last glimpse of her son "Brando" alive would be at the foot of the porch stairs at his duplex, lying in his own blood, gasping for air.
"I put a blanket on him so he wouldn't go into shock," she says. "I was telling him to breathe slowly."
Melvin "Brando" Fennell, 25, and two friends were shot in front of 818-B Arlington Avenue in East Chattanooga Sunday night. Calvin Garner, 24, and Mariah Stoudemire, 21, suffered non-life threatening injuries, police say. Fennell would die at Erlanger Hospital after suffering several bullet wounds to his chest.
Police have only a vague description of a suspect; a thin black man, lighter-skinned, dressed all in black.
Barely twelve hours later, Brando's mother tries to grasp what in his past, ended his future.
"We are very close and he didn't tell me about a beef, or anything," she says. "But none of us here are peachy clean, I don't think."
Fennell's adult criminal record begins barely after his 19th birthday. That year alone, he was charged with assault, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and vandalism.
He would face three charges for criminal trespass in 2007, two for domestic assault in 2008 and charges of criminal impersonation and evidence tampering in 2009.
"He really didn't have to do what he did," his mother says. "He just wanted to fit in and be a part of it."
At the time of his death, Fennell was completing three months' probation for drug possession.
"He was talking about after he got through he was going to get his GED, go back to school, and have a career," his mother says.
Fennell grew up on Arlington Avenue in East Chattanooga. His mother says he felt comfortable enough and safe enough there to move back into the neighborhood two years ago. He brought his long-time girlfriend, the mother of his five children.
"They've lost a father, I've lost a friend," Gilda Fennell says.
By early afternoon Independence Day, she finds proof that her family is larger by love than by blood. Friend upon friend stops to pay respects.
She finds Brando's home locked up tight. The chairs that Garner and Stoudemire sat in as they were shot have barely been disturbed.
At first glance, little may look wrong. The finality of it is sinking in, fast.
"As nerve-wracking as he can be, he's still my baby," she says.
Fennell's death is the 15th homicide for the year in Chattanooga.
No suspects have yet been identified in the shootings.