20 years ago today, an East Texas man was kidnapped from Bergfeld Park in Tyler.
His body was later found in a remote area of Smith County, robbed, beaten, and shot multiple times. That man was 23-year-old Nicholas West, an openly gay East Texan. His murder made national headlines, and moved East Texans to protest in the park where he was last seen. The three men responsible for West's death were Henry Dunn, Donald Aldrich, and David McMillan.
"These people weren't born to hate, they were taught to hate. That ultimately resulted in the acts that were carried out against Nicholas West. It was right here at Bergfeld park, on this same eve, 20 years ago," said Wesley Beard, a friend of Nicholas West.
Saturday, Life Covenant Church in Tyler held a vigil for West, and reflected on the hate crime that moved East Texans to protest.
"When we saw it was the 20th anniversary, we really wanted to do something about it to make sure Nicholas West was recognized, that the crime was recognized, and his life was recognized," said Jerry Bailey, Special Events Coordinator for Life Covenant Church.
Beard was one of the vigil's many guest speakers.
"I had mixed feelings when they asked me to speak at this year's event. It wasn't about the event, it was about reliving it all," said Beard.
Reliving the pain of West's death, whom he was friends with many years ago. It's a ceremony coordinators say is more than remembering a life.
"I want to make sure it never happens again. From tonight forward, let's end it all," said Bailey. "Let's remember Nicholas West for who he was, and for the crime that took his life 20 years ago tonight."
"I think for me as a person, and us as a community, we should take this senseless death and turn it into something good," said Beard.
The ceremony ended with Rent's Musical, "Seasons of Love." Candles were also lit for Nicholas West. Henry Dunn and Donald Aldrich were arrested, convicted, and executed for the death of Nicholas West. David McMillan, is serving a life sentence for his involvement in West's death.
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