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Shooting victim remembered as joyous presence

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Dane Freeman, a 20-year-old who was shot in the head and killed at a barbecue in Springfield Gardens last week, lived life with a smile on his face and a hand stretched out to anyone who needed help, friends said at a wake held for Freeman Wednesday.

“I used to call him the Kool-Aid boy because he always had this huge grin,” said Star Taliaferro, a 21-year-old from Jamaica who knew Freeman since junior high school. “He was a character, a cool kid. He was a fine young man, mannered, respectful. He had this joyous spirit and was always bubbly.”

Police were continuing to search for a suspect who opened fire in the early hours of May 23 on a large crowd at the Springfield Gardens gathering that had attracted hundreds of young people, killing Freeman and sending six others to the hospital, officials and residents said.

As Freeman’s friends began to stream into the wake at Gilmore’s Funeral Home in Jamaica, they consistently described him as someone who never failed to be cheerful and worked hard to help those close to him and the community at large. Taliaferro said he worked with the LIFE Camp, a nonprofit that has numerous programs for youth in southeast Queens.

Imani Robinson, 19, of Springfield Gardens, described Freeman as a “good kid who stayed out of trouble.”

“He was really funny,” said Robinson, who knew Freeman for six years. “He knew how to make you laugh.”

Atisha Mills, 27, of Long Island, said Freeman would often visit Mills and her family in their neighborhood in Cambria Heights, where Freeman grew up.

“He was very calm-spirited,” Mills said. “He never caused anybody problems.”

Mills, like many of those at the wake, said they were not at the barbecue where Freeman was shot.

“Thank God I wasn’t there,” she said.

Another friend of Freeman’s who did not want to give his name said he had intended to go to the barbecue but then was unable to go.

“Then I heard Dane got shot and I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

The same person said he frequently played basketball with Freeman, who worked at John F. Kennedy International Airport and was often seen shooting hoops with friends.

“We used to joke on each other a whole lot,” he said. “He had a smile that would light up the room. He’ll be missed. He was young and having fun and that got taken away from him for absolutely no reason.”

The gathering where Freeman was shot was originally said to have been a reunion for JHS 231, a couple of blocks from the event at 182-06 145th Drive, but others have said it was instead a general party. Hundreds of people ended up attending the event after individuals posted information about it on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, according to Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton).

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 5:46 pm, October 10, 2011
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