Murder victim’s family: ‘Bad that he had to go in pain’

Kenneth Kirkwood shot multiple times on College Avenue SE in Grand Rapids

Kenneth Kirkwood
An undated courtesy photo of Kenneth Kirkwood.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Family members on Tuesday lit candles and left balloons on the porch of a southeast Grand Rapids house where a man was fatally shot the night before.

The Grand Rapids Police Department was still looking for three suspects in the death of Kenneth Ray-Daniel Kirkwood, 39, of Grand Rapids.

College Avenue deadly shooting makeshift memorial
Balloons and candles sit on the porch where Kirkwood was killed. (Aug. 23, 2016)

“It’s just bad that he had to go in pain and suffering,” Kirkwood’s niece, Monica Lloyd, said Tuesday. “I’m just trying to remember him by the good and a happy feeling when he was here and think of him going home to a better place.”

She and another family member set up the makeshift memorial on the spot where their loved one was killed. A vigil was held there Tuesday night.

kenneth kirkwood, grand rapids homicide, college avenue se, candlelight vigil
A candlelight vigil for Kirkwood at the house where he was fatally shot. (Aug. 23, 2016)

“He had a lot of friends,” another niece, Melvon Kirkwood, said at the vigil. “Most of all, he did have a huge, warm personality.”

He leaves behind three children.

Kirkwood had been hired to help renovate a vacant house on College Avenue SE north of Dickinson Street. Police say he and another worker where taking a break on the porch around 9 p.m. Monday when the three assailants — likely teens — approached on bicycles. Officers said the suspects got off their bikes, walked onto the porch and demanded money. That’s when things turned violent: The teens shot Kirkwood multiple times and pistol-whipped the other man before taking off.

Kirkwood was taken to the hospital, where he died from his injuries around 4 a.m. Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, this was a very tragic and unnecessary event,” GRPD Sgt. Terry Dixon said at a press conference. “Our prayers go out to the family.”

Authorities said the man who was pistol-whipped called 911. He was treated at the scene and released.

college avenue se, shooting, grand rapids, grpd
The scene on College Avenue SE where Kirkwood was shot. (Aug. 22, 2016)

A police K-9 unit tried to track the assailants, but the scent turned cold.

Tuesday, police said all signs pointed to a random attack.

“At this point we don’t have anything linking the two parties together. We do not believe that they (the victims) knew the perpetrators,” Dixon said.

“Who just robbing somebody working in a place like this? Ain’t no money here,” Lloyd, Kirkwood’s niece, said. “Nothing but kids with nothing better else to do. They should be out working, earning their own money instead of out killing, bringing violence to the community.”

Anyone with information about the suspects or what happened can call GRPD at 616.456.3400 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.

“Out of the three of y’all, somebody going to talk. And we want that justice,” Kirkwood’s older sister, Blanche, said at the vigil. “Our hearts are heavy. So you have a parent, a mother — somebody knows something.”

Less than a day after the homicide, another man was working at the house on College Avenue, putting up a fence.

“I ain’t ever had no issues,” the man, who didn’t want to be identified, said of the site. “But it’s just one of them type of things. That’s what we’re growing up in. That’s how they growing up — shooting, robberies. I don’t know.”

He said he won’t be coming to the home after dark.

“Ain’t nothing out that time for me but police and criminals,” he added.

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