Two days after Nicolas Martel Carpenter was gunned down at the doorstep of a teen nightclub on North Leg Road, his family gathered inside Diane Murphy's south Augusta home.
"Nick was not a fighter, and I always took up for him when we were kids," Ms. Carpenter said.
"Nick was never about fighting or anything violent," said 33-year-old Eta Henderson, a first cousin.
Mrs. Murphy fought back tears as she spoke about her only son.
"He was an innocent bystander," said the 47-year-old social worker. She said she raised her three children, including Myshyla Carpenter, 14, as God-fearing children who regularly attended church.
"There is nothing that leads us to think he was part of a gang," said Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Steve Fanning. "We have not seen anything that ties him to gangs and it's hard to say if he was the intended target.
"There does not appear to be any relationship between he and the shooter," he said.
At about 1:45 a.m. Sunday, Mr. Carpenter was leaving Club Platinum when a bullet hit him in the stomach in an apparent drive-by shooting.
Sixteen-year-old Denzel Laquan Ward remains in jail and is charged with Mr. Carpenter's murder.
Police said a fight occurred inside the club between two rival south Augusta gangs - Barton Village-based O-dub and Old Savannah Boys of Dogwood Terrace housing project.
After club security forced the fighters to exit the club, it's believed some of the men might have gotten into a vehicle and retaliated by shooting at the club's doorway where a sheriff's deputy stood.
Mr. Carpenter's sister wanted to publicly thank an unknown man named "John" who she said accompanied her brother in the ambulance to Medical College of Georgia Hospital.
"John told us that Nick said he loved us," Ms. Carpenter said.
Investigator Fanning said he wasn't sure where the victim was standing when he was shot, but he confirmed that a sheriff's deputy was standing nearby.
"I'm not sure who the intended target was," he said.
The Rev. Annie Freeman, recalled her 24-year-old nephew as "a good child and a loving father." The family attends New Wave Ministries of Augusta where the Rev. Freeman is the minister.
Tiffany Walker, Mr. Carpenter's 20-year-old fiance, sat quietly on a loveseat as she clutched their son, Martel Carpenter, 2, and daughter, Nakiyah Carpenter, 1.
"He was funny," she said of Mr. Carpenter. "He'd come from work and always pick up the kids and play with them."
Mr. Carpenter worked a variety of construction jobs and recently helped renovate Lake Olmstead Apartments, Ms. Walker said.
The couple shared an apartment on Windsor Spring Road.
Martel, simply asks her whether his dad is asleep, while little Nakiyah has not yet realized he won't ever return.
Mrs. Murphy said her son was still getting over the death of his father, who died of liver failure in November.
Jessie Murphy, Mrs. Murphy's husband, sat outside the house and said his grandchildren would be cared for.
"One thing I can say about Nick ... if you needed him, he'd be there for you. He was a very serious young man. And not the type to put himself in dangerous situations like gangs, mainly because he had these two beautiful children to live for," Mr. Murphy said.
Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.