The brother of a 9-year-old Michigan boy who was fatally stabbed on a playground Monday told his younger brother, “I will always love you,” before he died, a family member told mourners at a vigil Wednesday.
Friends, family members and local Boy Scouts lit candles Wednesday night at the playground where Michael “Connor” Verkerke was stabbed, NBC affiliate WOOD TV reported. Jim Stearns, Connor’s great-uncle, told the crowd that the boy’s 7-year-old brother carried Connor home after he was stabbed, and told him, “If anything happens to me, it’s not your fault. I will always love you.”
“The family wants you all to know there is more than tragedy here, there are heroes,” Stearns said. “James, Connor’s very good friend who was there to protect him; his brother who was there to make sure he got home.”
A 12-year-old boy is charged with murder in the fatal stabbing, which occurred at the playground in Kentwood, Michigan, on the outskirts of Grand Rapids. The motive of the attack is unknown. Police said the 12-year-old went to a nearby home, calmly called 911, and then flagged down officers as they arrived. NBC News is not identifying the 12-year-old because of his age.