OREGON, Ill. (WTVO) — An Ogle County community gathers to honor the Oregon first-grader killed last week.
Neighbors held a candlelight vigil remembering 7-year-old Nathaniel Burton Tuesday night.
“It is a terrible thing to happen to a young man, seven years old. His life is hardly even started,” said Gary Schrimpsher.
Dozens of community members came together for the seven-year-old. The Lee County Coroner says his death is being investigated as a homicide.
“It was a terrible tragedy. I’m a mother and a grandmother, and I can’t imagine something so terrible happening to a little boy. So I just wanted to come out so people knew that we cared,” said Ginger Pearson.
Attendees stood shoulder-to-shoulder outside of Oregon Elementary, where Nathaniel was a student. Organizers put up several signs and passed out candles for people to light. Some shared poems, prayers, and their memories of Nathaniel.
“His family used to live next door to the church we attend, and we’d see him out playing in the parking lot, playing at the basketball court and stuff. They attended a few times when they had things for the children there,” said Schrimpsher.
Other attendees tell us while they have no personal connection with Nathaniel, they felt it was important to grieve for a life lost too soon.
“Knowing that so many people cared about a little boy. And I didn’t know him, but I cared about him. And I think other people feel the same way,” Pearson said.
“We’re such a small, close community that even though I have no idea who these people are, I feel like we have to come together as a community to show our support,” said Shannon Martin, who helped organize the vigil.
As the father of two young girls, RiverStone Christian Church Pastor Craig Arnold says Nathaniel’s death really hit home for him.
“My mind goes directly to that. she’s 6, you know, a year younger, you just hug onto littles a little bit tighter than you thought you could and you just remind them that daddy’s always here and i’ll protect you,” Pastor Arnold said.
Oregon Police say officers responded to a 911 call, for a child who was not breathing, around 2:35 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17 at a residence in the 400 block of South 10th Street.
Police say Nathaniel was taken to KSB Hospital in Dixon, where he was pronounced dead.
Friends are selling wristbands or bracelets for $2. The sales will go towards funeral costs.