Posted at: 06/17/2013 1:44 AM
Updated at: 06/17/2013 1:46 AM
By: Steve Flamisch
ALBANY -- Qazir Sutherland earned the nickname "Tough."
Born two months premature, and weighing only one pound, the frail but feisty baby never stopped fighting. He overcame serious health problems and long odds to grow into a vibrant seven year-old, known for his bright smile and playful nature.
Then, on a visit to his grandparents' house Saturday night, Qazir was struck by a car while crossing the 600-block of South Pearl St. "Tough" Sutherland fought for his life, as he did at birth, but his injuries were too severe.
He was taken off life support Sunday morning, his father said.
"He's gone now," Ptolemy Sutherland told NewsChannel 13, choking back tears. "That's the hard thing for me -- as a father on Father's Day -- was to pull the plug on my son and give him his last bath and put him in a body bag and prepare him for his service."
More than 100 family members, friends, and neighbors attended a candlelight memorial Sunday night at the scene of the accident, near 628 South Pearl St. Mourners placed teddy bears and other stuffed animals on the sidewalk. They signed a poster board with messages of love.
"I love him lot," Qazir's cousin, Azariah Haggray, 10, said. "He's like my little brother. I really care about him. I wish he was here right now so he could hear this."
Qazir's mother, Falonda Haggray, thanked the community for supporting her. She then released several star-shaped silver helium balloons into the sky, saying they were floating up to meet her son.
"OUT OF NOWHERE"
Qazir lived with his mom and three siblings on Green St., family members said. He was visiting his grandparents at the Ezra Prentice Homes on the night of the accident.
At about 8:00 p.m., Qazir and his mom were on opposite sides of South Pearl St. when she and other adults yelled for him to cross the street and join them for a cookout, a family member said.
"We were all telling him to come -- 'run, run, run' -- and (the car) just came out of nowhere with full force speed," Qazir's aunt, Sakina Boyd, said. "Unfortunately, when we tried to tell him to go back, it was too late."
The driver, whose name was not released, stopped after hitting Qazir, according to city police.
Albany Police spokesman Steve Smith said late Sunday he had not been briefed on whether the driver submitted to alcohol and drug tests. No charges had been filed, and it was unclear whether charges were possible.
Smith could not confirm whether the driver was speeding.
Several neighbors said cars and tractor-trailers routinely speed through the neighborhood. They demanded the city install better signage, crosswalks, speed bumps, or a new traffic light.
"They need to do something," neighbor Walter Rivera said. "It's a community of kids. One death is too much."
City Council President Carolyn McLaughlin and Council Member Lester Freeman attended the candlelight memorial Sunday, and listened to the concerns. At one point, McLaughlin stood in the street and yelled at several passing drivers to slow down.
"AN INNOCENT PERSON"
Those who knew Qazir Sutherland remembered him with warmth and affection. A student at the Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys, he received good grades and excelled at basketball, family and friends said.
"He was a good kid," Qazir's grandfather, Sam Bunch, said. "(He did) well in school, very active, always was a happy kid, loved to go out and play, have fun around here in the neighborhood."
Nyree McQueen said she will miss playing with Qazir.
"He was sweet," McQueen said. "He was an innocent person. He never caused trouble."
Rivera, the neighbor who called on the city to improve pedestrian safety there, said Qazir's death affects everyone in the neighborhood -- even those who didn't know the boy.
"It's everyone's loss," he said. "Everybody here is our children. We all live here. It doesn't matter if you're white, black, or Spanish. We're all family here."