The pain of grief is still sharp. The lingering questions, lack of answers, and empty void left by the death of their 16-year-old son twists like a knife day and night.
Hoping to take the edge off just a little, Dillon Viens’ parents have decided to focus on raising money in their son’s memory.
Rhonda Brewster and David Viens Sr. have organized a fundraiser, hoping to pay for and build a new BMX park in Johnston, dedicated to the short life of late son, Dillon D. Viens, who died following what police have called an “accidental shooting” on Feb. 12.
“He loved riding his bike,” David Viens said, holding a photo of his son and flyer for the fundraiser, which has been scheduled for Nov. 17 at Skyline at Waterplace, 1 Finance Way, Providence.
Dillon’s cousin Jashua King provided photos of Dillon riding his bike up and down the curved cement of a now-closed local skate park.
“Kids need good things to do,” David Viens said. “They need a park where they can do things like ride BMX and skateboards and hang out.”
The 6 p.m. event, called “Dillon Viends: A Celebration of Life” will include a buffet, special raffle and a petition signing. A $20 admission fee will be charged.
King said that the family is “looking for all small businesses who would like to donate a gift card or certificate for a raffle.”
“This also will help get your business name out there,” King wrote. “All proceeds from raffles will go to getting a BMX bike park built in the honor of Dillon Viens and also help to pass ‘Dillon’s Law,’ which would make any unlocked firearm causing bodily harm or death a felony instead of a misdemeanor.”
One local legislator has pledged to help draft and pass Dillon’s Law.
“I would be glad to sit down in December to draft legislation for ‘Dillon’s Law,’ to help Rhode Island make it a felony,” Rhode Island state Rep. Deborah A. Fellela, District-43 (Johnston) recently wrote in a note to David.
“We really need to get this law passed,” David Viens said last week.
Dillon Viens, 16, a Johnston resident and student at William M. Davies Jr. Career and Technical High School, died following the “accidental shooting” in a Cedar Street home on Feb. 12.
While Johnston Police Chief Joseph P. Razza has said the case is “still under investigation,” and the case has landed in the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office.
Several months ago, Razza provided a statement to the media in response to recent inquiries.
“As you may not be aware, we are working in conjunction with the RI Attorney Generals office and still investigating the tragic death of Dillon Viens to the fullest extent possible,” Razza wrote via email. “Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of Dillon, but the investigation is on going and still evolving and as more information becomes available, I will be able to advise the family, you and the rest of the media.”
Johnston Police arrested and charged Marios M. Kirios, 29, of Cedar St., Johnston, as part of the "ongoing investigation into the shooting death” of Viens. Kirios was charged with four misdemeanor counts of violating a state law that requires Safe Storage of a Firearm. According to court records, Kirios was serving five years probation for a 2019 arrest.
The day after the shooting, Razza said: “We are treating the incident as accidental and those involved (are) fully cooperating with investigators.”
“Kirios, who was not at home at the time of the shooting, had legally possessed the firearms that were later seized as part of this investigation," according to a statement released by Johnston Police in February. Kirios was arraigned the following Wednesday at Kent County Courthouse and was held as a Superior Court violator, according to Johnston Police, but was soon released over the objection of prosecutors handling the case.
“In February … the state, presented the defendant as a probation violator because he had this new charge,” said Blake Collins, former spokesman for Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha. “And the court set bail for him over our objections.”
Collins confirmed that there is “a pending investigation, by the Attorney General’s Office and Johnston Police, into the shooting death of Dillon Viens,” but could not provide details or answer questions on case specifics. New spokesman for Neronha, Brian Hodge, promised to look into the case and whether an update could be provided. Hodge was unable to provide an update by press-time.
Family and friends have held rallies demanding justice for Dillon Viens.
“It’s not fair for a child who was very involved in his community; very involved in outreach programs,” Brewster said shortly after the shooting. “This was not a child that was involved in drugs and guns and …”
“Skateboard and BMX,” his father interrupted.
“BMX and he went to see his sister play in flag football,” his mom continued.
Dillon’s parents started a petition, calling for stronger gun storage laws in Rhode Island. Nearly 2,000 have signed the petition.
“Dillon is my son, my first true love and my greatest heartbreak,” Brewster wrote, in her online appeal for signatures. “I wouldn't wish this on no parent, grandparent, sibling, or anyone else in the world. The pain that I feel daily is overwhelming as all I want is to hug, kiss, and tell my boy I love him. Please sign and help us change the narrative of another child being taken by gun violence and negligence.”
Viens and Brewster hope to help stir support for state legislation that would enact tougher penalties for irresponsible gun owners. They long to celebrate the passing of a bill named for their son — Dillon’s Law — which would upgrade gun storage charges (in the case of death or injury) to a felony.
“What Dillon's Law would represent is a mandatory felony charge for any firearm not properly being secured, a fine up to $5,000, and five (5) years in prison,” Brewster wrote. “A misdemeanor charge for such a tragic event is simply not enough.”
Dillon has a little sister, Racquell “Rocky” Viens and an older brother, David Viens Jr. He was born on Nov. 28, 2005, in Fall River, Massachusetts, but was raised in Johnston, where he attended Sarah Dyer Barnes Elementary and Nicholas A. Ferri Middle school. At the time of his death, Dillon was in ninth grade at Davies Technical Institute in Lincoln, studying auto mechanics.
“Dillon was a ray of light, a free spirit who brought sunshine wherever he went. He was a polite, kind and compassionate young man who always wanted to help others,” according to his obituary. “He was working toward getting his driver’s license and was learning to cook. He loved skateboarding and riding his BMX at the local parks. He also had a natural eye for photography.”
His mother taught him to “stand strong in who you are ... stand tall.”
“Dillon never let any limitations hold him back,” read his February obituary. “He lived his life outside of the box, expressing himself through fashion and style, as well as acts of kindness toward others. He was friendly and outgoing, and could often be found striking up a conversation with a stranger. He accepted everyone as they were, and had love for all without judgment. He put others first before himself and was always concerned with taking care of people.”
David Viens feels his son would have loved the idea of a new BMX park in town, for his surviving friends and new generations of Johnston youth. When kids have outlets, and places to go where they feel they fit, they often stay out of trouble.
“Dillon loved exploring and was always ready for adventure,” his parents wrote in the young teen’s obituary. “He enjoyed fishing, boating, hiking, camping, trips to the Catskill Mountains, going to car shows, and working with his dad. He loved fashion, looking stylish and collecting sneakers. He talked about a potential career as a Fashion Designer and dreamt up names for his future clothing line. The possibilities are endless as to where his precious young life and bright spirit would have taken him.”
Hopefully, following the fundraiser and a lot of hard work, ramps will be erected (in a still undetermined location), for Johnston’s youngsters to gain speed and soar into the air.
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