OAKLAND -- Dinyal New admits that she hasn't come to terms with the killing of her 13-year-old son.
Still, she found the strength to stand before hundreds of people inside Alliance Academy's auditorium Wednesday morning and question why a gunman shot him on New Year's Eve and left him on the ground to die.
"Please remember to say you love your kids," New told the crowd of grieving friends, family and classmates who'd gathered to remember the life of Lee Weathersby III, who was fatally shot the evening of Dec. 31.
And then, before the silent audience, the boy's mother broke down.
"They murdered my baby," she said as she began to weep. "Who would do something like this to a 13-year-old boy? They did him bad."
Lee was shot multiple times while on his way home after a party hours earlier at the Boys & Girls Club of Oakland on International Boulevard, where he had been a member since he was 6 years old. Police say he was gunned down at 104th Avenue and Walnut Street, a few blocks from his home. He died at 4:42 a.m. New Year's Day at Highland Hospital, becoming Oakland's first homicide victim of 2014.
As of Wednesday, police did not have a motive for Lee's killing, and no arrests had been made. His family says they believe his death was a case of mistaken identity.
Inside the school Wednesday, those who knew the popular boy recalled his laughter and thoughtfulness.
"All I can picture is that amazing smile, full of life," said Cheryl Lana, Lee's formal principal. "Lee was quick to help. The legacy he left is one of friendship, commitment and compassion."
The memorial, planned by Alliance students and staff, was so well-attended that every seat in the auditorium was full, including the balcony.
The ceremony included musical performances, a dance and a presentation of flowers and an engraved drum and set of drumsticks to his family. Lee played basketball at the school and also played the drum in the school's band.
The band left an empty chair for Lee and the drum he used to beat in place as they performed in his memory. Band members including Walter Williams, 14, wore a montage of photos around their necks with the words "Rest in Peace" on it.
After performing their first number, Walter bowed his head and wept.
"Thank you for raising Lee and sharing him with us," Alliance teacher Ali'a Edwards told Lee's mother.
Mayor Jean Quan also attended the ceremony and said that the city has been "working on the issue of violence," including efforts to prevent more children from dying in the city.
"I can't promise it will happen, but I can promise I will work for it every day," she told the students, many of whom listened with tears streaming down their faces.
Oakland Unified school board member Jason Harris spoke during the service and choked up while talking of the boy, whom he met briefly in the hallway of the school.
"What do you say?" he asked, then spoke about an angry conversation he had with God after learning of Lee's death and touching on how his wife and his sister are battling serious health issues now and are in great pain.
"Why, God, don't you take me instead? Let me have their pain," Harris said he prayed.
"But it does not work that way," he responded. "They (those who die) exist so you know your true potential. He existed so all of you can see your true potential. Honor Lee by honoring yourselves and your family."
Lee's mother said that since Lee died she has not found time to grieve because she's been surrounded by people who love and support her.
But she said she found some solace earlier this week while at home listening to the pop song "Missing You." She said she was sitting by the fireplace when a piece of paper fell off the mantle and gently brushed her arm.
"I believe it was Lee saying, 'It will be OK, Mom,'" she told the audience, wiped her tears away and then smiled.
Police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering up to $10,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrest of the killer. Anyone with information may call police at 510-238-3821 or Crime Stoppers of Oakland at 510-777-8572.
Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.