LAWRENCE, Ind. — A Dollar Tree at the center of a deadly shooting in Lawrence became a memorial for one of its most cherished employees on Friday night.
Jasmine Bennett, 25, was shot and killed Monday afternoon while working at a Dollar Tree off of Pendleton Pike. Police say a former employee opened fire without warning.
Dozens of people gathered on Friday for a candlelight vigil and balloon release. Bennett’s family said the Dollar Tree was more than just a store to her; it was like a home.
“Dollar Tree meant everything to her,” her mother, Dina Ford, said. “And the customers meant everything to her. She was just a loving person.”
Although tragedy struck the store earlier in the week, Bennett’s mother said holding the vigil there just felt right.
“This is where she got killed, this is where they took her life,” Ford said. “This is where she loved everybody. So we wanted to honor her. This is where her soul was when it got taken away from her.”
Ford said her daughter was an upbeat, glowing soul. Jasmine used to dance and sing, her mother said.
“She had her life ahead of her, and she was one day going to become something big,” Ford said.
Her family is still struggling to understand why it was all cut so short.
“As an older sibling you never think your little sister go before you,” her brother Stephen Wooldridge said. “I remember when mom brought her home from the hospital. She’s been there for me ever since.”
Jasimine’s mother said she not only misses her daughter dearly, but also feels a sense of guilt.
“I love her, and I wish it was me instead of her so that way she could live on,” Ford said. “I just keep replaying the last conversation I had with her. What could I have done? Could I have stayed on the phone longer?”
Her coworkers all feel the same way. They say they too are struck with grief because she was practically family.
“She was like my best friend,” coworker Jerry White said. “She was my best friend here. We all feel this so deeply. There’s no way to describe it.”
White said he heard the gunfire and immediately went to Jasmine to try and help. He said he stuck by her side until the end.
“I had to go to her,” he said. “Left alone with her. I had to hold her and stay with her until they made me back away from her. Someone had to be there with her. I was not going to let her go through this by herself.”
While it’s difficult to picture the road ahead, Friday’s crowd outshined the scars left behind. It was a clear sign Jasmine had a true impact.
“The fact that people who don’t even know her are paying respects to her and stuff, that’s amazing,” Ford said.
Jasmine’s family said the store has decided to stay closed until after her funeral out of a sign of respect. Her mother said she plans to follow her daughter’s case very closely and continue to be an active voice for her throughout all court proceedings.