‘Collateral damage’: Family says stabbed teen not in gang
THE family of murdered Zillmere teen Girum Mekonnen believe he was misunderstood and are adamant he was not involved in a gang.
Loved ones told The Courier-Mail yesterday that their group - which is affectionately called "34" to reflect Zillmere's 4034 postcode - were just a group of mates, including many women and children.
The group spent their weekends enjoying barbecues while their children played at local parks.
They believe Mekonnen's death was collateral damage in someone else's feud, calling him an "angel" despite his alleged criminal history.
"Those boys are alway around my kids - so they're not a gang," a loved one told The Courier-Mail.
"Girum liked their vibe and started hanging out with them recently and got caught up in this stuff.
"He's a soft-hearted person that doesn't like fighting, he doesn't like when people are arguing."
According to the witness, and Mekonnen's aunty, who did not want to be named yesterday, police have been unable to talk to many of the men involved in the ugly incident.
The Courier-Mail understands Mekonnen's death was revenge for the gang-bashing of a young man from an African gang on Brisbane's southside last week.
Loved ones of Mekonnen were asked yesterday about who was involved in the gang bashing at Redbank, but said they did not know.
They also refuted claims that a woman had caused a feud between the two groups.
"At the end of the day, (Girum and his friends) were just hanging out (on Sunday) after a big night out," another loved one said.
"They were having an easy Sunday. They were hungover, joking and laughing about it and they were ambushed by, who knows, 20 more people, these guys with weapons, while they were sitting enjoying their time before they go home and start work on Monday."
One of Girum's best friends, Emanuel Makuel, who considered his long term mate as a younger brother, said his fishing and hiking buddy was an intelligent, courageous young man, with plenty of potential and a bright future.
"As an older brother I was looking out at Girum's potential, and when I realised the kind of person he could be, I started to walk by him and advise him on how he can reach his goals,"
Mr Makuel, who is also a Chairman at the QACC (Queensland African Communities Council) said.
Mr Makuel said the tragic loss of his friend would encourage him to help guide the community.
"To lose a close brother hurts, but I'm going to use all that I can now, and I'm sure he will be there to guide me through," he said.
"Enough is enough, and it's time to stand up and take action. It's time for us to work together, the youth and the elders, to really rectify what's happening amongst the youth itself.
"(I'm) devastated- in pain, but I'm going to stand."
There's no suggestion Mr Makuel has any association with any gang.
COMMUNITY LEFT TO DEAL WITH FALLOUT
While Queensland's African community grieves the loss of Brisbane teen Girum Mekonnen, the focus for it now turns to ensuring their youngest, and often most vulnerable members, have their voices heard.
The Queensland African Communities Council yesterday afternoon met with local youth in a bid to ensure history does not repeat itself, and work on re-establishing trust between young people, the police and the broader community.
"We are focusing on harmony," Beny Bol of the QACC said.
"We are making sure the situation is calm, and also working to alleviate the fear in the community that this could be an organised crime and that the community safety is under threat."
Mr Bol said the tragedy could have happened anywhere, but his priority was ensuring it never happened again.
"I want to make sure our young people's voices are heard," Mr Bol said.
"The community is coming to terms with the tragic incident and I think we are all shocked in the community. We wish it didn't happen, but it has happened. It is a very sad thing, a very young man with potential and a bright future ahead of him, dying under very horrible circumstances.
"We are grieving together and making sure that we identify the movement of our young people and understand why they have become disengaged from the community or from the school or even their own families. We need to get to the bottom of what the root causes are."
Mr Bol said Girum had been looking forward to a bright future, and had dreamt of one day starting his own business.
Originally published as 'Collateral damage': Family says stabbed teen not in gang