A six-hour, open-casket viewing was held for fans of South Florida rapper XXXTentacion. Around a thousand fans, who came from all over, waited outside for a couple hours or longer to get in.
SUNRISE, Fla. — Hundreds of fans gathered Wednesday at a public memorial in a hockey arena here for rising young rapper XXXTentacion and thousands more were expected to view the body of the murdered young singer.
About 1,000 people were in attendance as of noon but officials at the BT&T Center arena said up to 19,000 more people were expected throughout the day. Phones and other electronics were not permitted inside the arena.
As fans queued to pay their respects, Broward County detectives searched for a possible second suspect in XXXTentacion’s murder. On Wednesday, the sheriff’s office posted a bulletin informing the public that they are trying to locate and question Robert Allen, 22. It says he was captured on surveillance video outside the motorcycle dealership on June 18, the same day the rapper was fatally shot.
The memorial viewing for the slain rapper was held at the BB&T Center, a 20,000-seat arena in Sunrise, Fla., that is home to the Florida Panthers hockey team.
The memorial was organized by his family and fans and advertised on his Instagram account last week. “Come say your final goodbye,” it read.
A tribute video of the rapper played during the first hour of the viewing, and celebrity guests were expected .
Fans started lining up as early at 7 a.m.; many drove from all over the state to see XXXTentacion one last time. Outside, some fans danced to XXXTentacion’s songs blasting out from the front doors of the arena.
Others waited patiently in blistering heat before they were allowed inside in groups of about 50 to 100. They were led down to the stage while XXXTentacion’s music videos and videos from his social-media accounts flooded screens.
They were allowed on stage a few people at a time; there some grabbed their mouths as they passed by the casket containing the rapper’s body, dressed in a dark blue jacket and brown pants. Other fans ran out sobbing after viewing the body.
One of the fans, Alexandra Jaime, grasped onto her boyfriend’s arm as they walked past the casket, flanked by black roses and metallic leaf displays spaced around the stage.The couple came from North Miami Beach around 9 a.m. were among the first fans who came to pay their respects.
“At first I was completely shocked, when I found out what happened to him,” Jaime said. “Nobody was expecting this.”
Kelsey Manns, 17, and her friend Samantha Steinman, 18, were among the first ten people who showed up to the memorial on Wednesday.
“He let his fans know that we weren’t alone, so we’re here for him and his family,” Manns said. “He comforted us in a way.”
Vincent Oliveri, 19, of Sarasota, who got up at 6 a.m. to get to the viewing, said he felt like he owed it to XXXTentacion. He said he was glad phones and cameras were banned from the arena.
“That makes it more authentic and encourages people to just remember him,” he said. “I wanted to show support for someone who went through some hard stuff and wanted to make it better for everyone else. It’s just uplifting and I think this is how he could have wanted it.”
Tedra Davy said her son Christian, 11, started listening to XXXTentacion’s music when he was 9 and has been a fan ever since.
“It was like motivating,” Christian said. “All of his fans went crazy (when he died) and they all loved him so much.”
Still, she worried about bringing her son to the viewing given XXXTentacion’s past. “There’s a lot of people that don’t like him,” she said.
XXXTentacion, whose real name was Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy, was an up and coming rap artist in South Florida whose second album reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts in March. Lead single “Sad!” hit no. 7 on the singles chart in March, and posthumously reached No. 1 Monday.
Police said he was approached by two armed suspects and at least one of them fired; then both suspects fled the scene in a dark SUV.
The 20-year-old rapper was rushed to a hospital in the Fort Lauderdale area where he was pronounced dead shortly before 6 p.m. ET.
His lawyer, David Bogenschutz, told USA TODAY XXXTentacion was driving a $147,000 luxury BMW at the time of his murder. He said detectives believe he was shot in a random robbery while planning to buy a motorcycle.
Bank records showed he had withdrawn cash from an ATM that day and that the money and the small Louis Vuitton bag he typically carried were missing after the shooting.
Two days after the shooting, Broward County sheriff’s detectives announced they had arrested one man and were looking for other suspects. Dedrick Williams, 22, was arrested in Pompano Beach after a traffic stop.
A day later, a Florida magistrate judge ordered Williams to be held without bond on charges of first-degree murder without premeditation, a probation violation and for not having a valid driver’s license.
Court records show Williams has been charged previously with several felonies, including grand theft auto, domestic violence, cocaine possession and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. It does not appear, however, that he has ever done prison time for these charges and some of them were dropped. Williams does not appear in the Florida Department of Corrections offender database, but was on probation for the auto theft conviction.
After the shooting, fans and friends of XXXTentacion mounted memorials, at the Florida shooting site and in Los Angeles, and sent his music sales soaring.
The RIVA Motorsports’ website posted photos of the rapper smiling alongside staffers from a previous visit, overlaid with an illustration of a broken heart. The sidewalk near where he was shot became a gathering place for flowers, candles and stuffed animals, plus chalk drawings on the pavement.
City News Service reports that several hundred people staged an impromptu memorial in Los Angeles for rapper XXXTentacion. Police eventually cleared the street. No arrests were immediately reported. XXXTentacion was killed near Miami on Monday. (June 20)
In Los Angeles, hundreds of fans turned Melrose Avenue into a mosh pit in celebration and mourning on the night of June 19. In an impromptu memorial outside a Hollywood bike shop, up to 1,000 fans filled the street and danced on rooftops, shouting along with his songs beneath a cloud of pot smoke. By 9 p.m. PT, police clad in riot gear were brought in to subdue the crowd.
At the time of his death, the young rapper was facing trial on charges that he beat his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Geneva Ayala, and threatened to kill her and her unborn child in the fall of 2016. He was arrested and charged with aggravated battery on a pregnant victim, domestic violence by strangulation and false imprisonment.
At the BET Awards in Los Angeles, T.I., Rick Ross and Lecrae pay tribute to late rapper XXXTentacion, who was shot earlier this month. (June 25)
Later, he was also charged with witness tampering for allegedly offering her money if she dropped the charges and threatening a friend of Ayala’s who witnessed some of his abuse.
Ayala tweeted that she was “broken” by his murder. “everyone expecting me to be relieved or happy?! no, i’m broken,” one of her tweets read.
Bogenschutz, the lawyer who represented him, said his client denied all the charges against him but was moving to “resolve” the criminal case at the time of his death. His murder means the end of the case, and local prosecutors have confirmed they were in the process of dropping the matter.
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