SOMERSET, NJ -- More than 200 friends and family gathered yesterday to honor Lionel M. Macauley with calls for mourners to live their lives with blessings and gratitude, as Macauley would have wanted. Candles lined the basketball courts of Castleton Park while those who knew and loved Macauley shared stories of his dedication to the people around him.

The community mourned his loss following a shooting at a New Brunswick home last week, where Somerset’s Macauley, 28, and another man were killed and seven others injured. Some speakers pointed out the senselessness of the gun violence that caused the tragedy and called for those in attendance to remember the people they love while they’re still alive -- to “give roses” to the living and celebrate life. 

The stories told painted the picture of a man who loved life and those around him; who was a common face at the basketball courts and was unafraid of playing in the paint; an artist dedicated to his craft whether that was dance, spoken word poetry or acting; an athlete, particularly proud of his state championship-winning track team; possibly most importantly, a caring friend who would help anyone if asked, and often would show up and check on friends unprompted. 

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Councilmembers Carl Wright and Crystal Pruitt attended to pay their respects alongside Director of Public Saftey Quovella Spruill and police Sgt. Sean Hebbon. The officials spoke on the issue of gun violence, with Spruill and Hebbon saying that in order to address gun violence, the police and community will have to work together. Hebbon, who leads Franklin police’s new Community Relations Bureau, said that Franklin can be a leader for other towns and cities and prove that the police and residents can come together to make sure something like Macauley’s tragic death doesn’t happen again. 

Between stories with speakers standing to the side of the court ready to play club music, a call would go out to everyone gathered, “When I say ‘blessed’ you say ‘grateful,’” and the words “blessed” and “grateful” rang out from the crowd and carried through the park and out into the world, spreading the gratitude and positivity that Macauley was known for.