Video by Joseph Hollak
Words by Benjamin Baxter
The same free speech area often privy to raucous argument, comically dour poetry readings and animal rights protest didnâ€™t hear the crowd so much as whisper Wednesday night.
It was more than a half-hour before the moment of silence, but the crowd was quiet enough already.
Several hundred students had shuffled in that night, as early as 10:30 p.m., in groups as large as thirty.
They awaited a vigil for Brant Daniels, a 19-year-old former Fresno State student fatally shot the previous night at the nearby University Village apartment complex.
Some, residents of University Village, walked the distance together bearing lighted candles.
All the while, only muffled sobbing broke the faint electric hum of the incandescent streetlights and the nighttime chirping of crickets. A golf cart puttered away quietly once, but all eyes looked forward to the stage.
With fifteen minutes to go until the moment of silence, one of Danielsâ€™ closest friends spoke from the stage, thanking the crowd for coming to pay their respects.
He talked for a while, and then let another came forward, and another.
All spoke about how Daniels was a cheery, friendly person. He could always make you laugh. He didnâ€™t deserve to die. He was a great friend, they all said.
Exactly 24 hours after Daniels was pronounced dead at 11:55 p.m., a friend announced that the moment of silence had started. The ever-somber crowd was no less hushed then than at any other moment.
Then a soulful â€œAmazing Graceâ€ rang out, joined only by stage-side sobbing.
For the first time that evening, the crickets fell quiet.
This quiet reception might do the â€œlarger-than-lifeâ€ Daniels a disservice. After all, his friends all remembered his energetic personality and outgoing friendliness.
Freshman music major Kara Bailly didnâ€™t know Daniels very well herself, but he still helped her find a stolen laptop.
Daniels had approached her in November, shortly after her laptop was stolen. According to Bailly, Daniels told her that he knew who did it.
â€œI chatted with him about it, and he gave me the guyâ€™s name and went to go and get his phone number for me,â€ Bailly said. â€œHe was such an awesome person. This guy did not deserve to die.â€
Killed in a dispute over a stolen PlayStation, Daniels was as a champion at the Madden Football video game, said former roommate Barry Ennis.
â€œAs far as I know, he was undefeated,â€ said Ennis later that week.
Ennis said Daniels was always cheerful, but could be headstrong when it mattered.
â€œHe was very passionate,â€ he said. â€œHe would always stand up for what he thought was right. He took pride in who he was, and the life he lived. Iâ€™ll miss him.â€
Sophomore Taeheed Sabrie didnâ€™t know Daniels, but came to the vigil to support friends who did. Sabrie believes the campus should mourn the death, and also learn from it.
â€œBe more mindful of death, it can come at any time,â€ he said. â€œIf it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.â€