Hundreds attend vigil for 16-year-old boy slain in South Philly

Caleer Miller was remembered for his smile.

“When I look back and think about my grandson, I see that great big smile,” said Yolanda Blalock. “He had a smile that lights up the world.”

Blalock spoke to several hundred people who gathered for a candlelight vigil Thursday night at Chew Playground in the Point Breeze section of the city for Miller, a Mastery Charter student who was one of two 16-year-old boys fatally shot Tuesday night in South Philadelphia.

Miller’s father, also named Caleer, said he and his son — whose nickname was “Popeye” — both had that smile.

“When I look at his picture, I’m looking at me. So I lost a part of me,” his father said.

Miller and Salvatore DiNubile were each shot in the chest at the corner of 12th and Ritner Streets shortly before 8:30 p.m. and died soon afterward. Police said the shooting was the result of an ongoing dispute between groups of teens, but no suspect had been identified as of Thursday night.

Miller, who lived on the 1100 block of Dorrance Street next to the playground, had just started attending Mastery’s Thomas campus in South Philadelphia, not far from 12th and Ritner.

Camera icon Yong Kim / Staff Photographer
Ayanna Jones (left) and Kerrin Brown hold candles during a vigil for Caleer Miller.

Laneeka George, 28, a cousin, said Miller and DiNubile had recently become friends and played basketball together.

Heidi Lengel, 36, who was a homework tutor for Miller at Grace and Peace Community Church for three years, described the boy as “amazing, warm, compassionate, thoughtful, polite. He had a really bright spirit, a wonderful smile.”

Blalock, his grandmother as well as a minister at Christ Haven Worship Center in Southwest Philadelphia, said the boy was deeply religious.

“He loved the Lord because I raised him and trained him in the house of God,” she said.

Pastor Jonathan Olsen of Grace and Peace Community Church said Caleer used to carry the Bible to school.

City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson helped organize the vigil and decried the ongoing violence in the city.

“We have too many senseless murders taking place day after day, night after night,” he said.

Camera icon Yong Kim / Staff Photographer
Loved ones release balloons in Caleer Miller’s memory.