Difficult, emotional time: Prayer vigil for 8-year-old Royta Giles

Updated: Jul. 6, 2020 at 6:11 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A prayer vigil was held for 8-year-old Royta Giles’ family today at Avondale Park in Birmingham.

Royta was killed Friday at the Riverchase Galleria. He was caught in the crossfire of an argument that started near the food court. Royta was with other family members Friday at the mall to buy items for July 4th.

It is still very difficult for Royta’s mother to talk about losing him.

His grandmother spoke about how some people have protested recently over the death of George Floyd. She asked about the same outrage over her grandson.

“I hear how Black Lives Matter. Black lives Matter. How does it matter when you are killing your own race? When you think there is protesting going on. You are out here marching for that, but what about him?” Kesha Layfield said.

Royta would have been a third grader at Jonesboro Elementary. Royta Giles lit up a room at the school. He was bright, always had a big smile on his face with a big future.

Royta Giles was known by many at Jonesboro Elementary. He had a big personality.

Superintendent Autumn Jetter said the school system is providing counseling for the family.

Royta became friends with former teacher and now assistant principal Van James. James says Royta had the “it” factor, someone who would just lit up a room. James said he had so much potential and that makes his sudden death so hard to take.

“It’s difficult. It would be difficult at any incident, but the fact it was an 8-year-old child that had so many endless possibilities and endless potential, that is what hurts the most to me,” James said.

Support for the Giles family has been overwhelming. “Other community members. I’ve had pastors, random strangers, companies emailing me. What can we do to help? We just want to know what we can do help,” Anjell Edwards, Principal at Jones Elementary said.

The Riverchase Galleria reopened Monday after being closed since the Friday shooting.

A mall spokeswoman told WBRC FOX6 News there is increased security. Something shoppers will notice as they return to the mall.

The pastor of the family’s prayer vigil Monday is also a Midfield Police officer. Pastor David Miller said increased security could help.

“Stronger police presence is also going to make people uncomfortable, but when it comes down to it what can we do. I’m not talking, yeah it just happened at the Galleria, but it could have easily happened at The Summit. It could have easily happened at Western Hills Mall. It could have happened at the old Brookwood Mall. It could have happened anywhere,” Miller said.

Pastor Miller said a stronger police presence could have helped, but he really believes it comes down to parents taking control of their children and telling them gun violence is wrong.

A spokeswoman for the mall says nothing is more important that the safety of their shoppers and workers. She says the mall is grieving with the community.

Jonesboro Elementary is raising money to help the family pay for flowers for Royta’s casket.

His funeral is set for Saturday at noon at the Bessemer Civic Center. Counselors will be on hand for students and faculty members once school resumes.

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