MELCHER-DALLAS, Iowa -- The pain is overwhelming. "I got a phone call. Something just didn't sit right and that's when it was on the news like, they are gone. I started crying and I was like no," explained Amber Howser, cousin of Devonte and Malachi Swanks. Family and friends gathered at Melcher-Dallas Park Wednesday for a vigil they hoped to never have. Nineteen-year-old Devonte, his sixteen-year-old brother Malachi and 15 year old Thayne Wright were gunned down on January 30th inside a home at 619 E. Hackley Avenue. "We've known them for so long and got along with them so well. It is just devastating to know that they are gone," said Ben Wood, a friend to both Swanks brothers.
On Tuesday, Des Moines police charged twenty-year-old Daishawn Gills and nineteen-year-old Emmanuel Totaye Jr. with three counts of first degree murder. "It helps knowing that we are getting justice for the boys but at the end of the day they are gone and they are not coming back. It just sucks," said Bailey Johnson another cousin of the Swanks brothers.
Howser says the brothers spent some of their school years in the Melcher-Dallas Community School District when not in Des Moines. "They were bright, they also futures ahead of them. They would always talk about their future," Howser said. Social media posts from The Melcher-Dallas CSD from 2015 reported Devonte was one of just six high school students with perfect first quarter attendance and was also named to the freshmen homecoming court. Johnson said, "Just being around him you knew you were always going to laugh and have a good time. He was never down around you and always there to make you smile and help you."
The basketball court at Melcher-Dallas park was a place where Malachi and Devonte put their stress and worries behind. The community often saw them here and Wednesday they borrowed the Swanks brothers' place of solace to help put their own worries on the sideline. Wood said, "Three in the morning we'd play basketball and we'd talk about life. We'd hang out we'd have a laugh." It is a place that now symbolizes a helping hand in the time of need. "We want to remember them and not let that tragedy define their lives. We'd rather have them be remembered by the memories we have for each one of them," said Pastor Brent Hanna of the Columbia United Methodist Church.
A GoFundme page has been set up for the family of Devonte and Malachi. You can help donate here:
A fundraiser for Thayne Wright has already reached its fundraising goal.