Published January 13, 2015
Family and friends gathered at a private candlelight vigil Sunday to mourn a 15-year-old they knew as a friendly boy who shockingly led police on a deadly chase through his middle school with a pistol.
Christopher Penley was pronounced dead early Sunday, according to the Seminole County Sheriff's Office Web site, two days after a deputy gunned him down a school bathroom.
The boy had been described as clinically brain dead Saturday, and was kept alive so his organs could be harvested, said Mark Nation, a lawyer for Penley's parents.
On Friday, he was at school with a pellet gun that closely resembled a 9mm handgun when another boy scuffled with him for control of the gun inside a classroom at Milwee Middle School. Christopher was later cornered by sheriff's deputies and a SWAT team in a bathroom, authorities said.
Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said the boy was suicidal and couldn't be talked into surrendering the weapon. The teenager was shot after he raised the gun at a deputy, Eslinger said.
The sheriff said it wasn't until after the incident that authorities realized the weapon was only a pellet gun.
No one else at the 1,100-student school in suburban Orlando was injured.
The media was barred from the memorial service near Penley's neighborhood, which was reeling from the shooting. Family and friends say the boy was emotionally troubled, reportedly bullied at school and had run away from home several times.
Mourners emerged from the church carrying candles, sobbing and hugging each other.
"There were a lot of songs, praying, the minister spoke a few times — trying to comfort the family that he's in a better place," said Heather Sinclair, who mentored Penley in elementary school in Winter Springs.
Pastor Robbie Hall said he addressed the roughly 135 people in the church with a message of peace.
Outside, 18-year-old Steven Lewis, who had known Christopher for five years, said the teen "got along with everyone."
"Everyone was his best friend," Lewis said. "He's still with me in my heart."
Funeral arrangements for the boy were pending.
"It's just unbelievable to me that he's gone," said Bucky Hurt, a family friend who had been with the boy's father, Ralph Penley, at the hospital. "It's very, very devastating. Good kid too — it's a tragedy."