COLUMBIA, SC — The choir at First Nazareth Baptist Church sang, “We’ll understand it better, by and by,” as the grieving family of Dutch Fork High School senior Da’Von Capers leaned over his casket to say goodbye.
On this day, though, there was little understanding as to why a 17-year-old had died after being stabbed in a fight after a tense basketball game between two rivals.
Or why his mother had to utter cries so anguished it sounded as if her heart was being ripped from her chest.
Or why teenage football players had to wear dark sunglasses in church to mask the tears spilling down their cheeks.
The Rev. Blakely Scott, First Nazareth’s pastor, told people packed in the sanctuary for Capers’ funeral Saturday that they would have to trust God. He assured them that Capers was in a good place.
Capers, who played football for the Silver Foxes, was a good person, Scott said. He was an honor roll student who was respected and trusted by his teammates and classmates. And, most importantly, in 2010 he had been baptized, the preacher said.
“Da’Von is all right now,” Scott said. “If he had died outside the Lord, it would have been career ending. But because he died on the right side of the Lord, it was just a season-ending injury. It’s a new season for him.
“I need to tell his teammates he isn’t wearing a green uniform any more. He’s wearing a white uniform.”
Those lines brought the Dutch Fork football team players to their feet Saturday. Capers was buried after the service at Lincoln Cemetery on Farrow Road. He died Monday after he was stabbed in the chest during an argument at a Cook Out restaurant in Lexington following a basketball game between rival schools Dutch Fork and Lexington.
Before Saturday’s service began, a line of people snaked through the church’s sanctuary as they viewed Capers, who was lying in a shiny, steel-gray casket. Young women clung to each other while walking past. The young men wrapped arms around each other’s shoulders.
Outside, football players stood quietly. The only sound was their hands slapping together before tight embraces. Some buried their faces into the shoulders of parents, teachers and coaches as their bodies shook with grief.
Just before the service began, Capers’ parents, Laronzo and Charlene Capers, led a procession of their large extended family into the church. The parents and their two surviving adult children, Cherelle Capers and Byron Capers, paused in front of the casket for several minutes. The painful wailing from the family sent chills through those sitting in the church pews. Even more people began to cry.
The eulogy featured remarks from Capers’ uncle, Robert Capers, who recalled his nephew’s big smile and his fondness for “cutting a joke or two.” The uncle said he was amazed at how many people the 17-year-old had met during his short life.
“As his uncle, I’m very proud to have a nephew with those qualities,” Robert Capers said.
Kevin Hendrix, a Dutch Fork football team defensive line coach, spoke about Capers’ presence on the football team.
Da’Von Capers wanted respect and trust from his teammates and gave his in return, Hendrix said.
“I remember Cape as a guy who laid a lick every day he came to practice,” the coach said. “He didn’t have to speak much. He did it with the way he practiced. He was very much a part of the game every day.”
Hendrix told a story about Capers losing a family member just as the team was holding early morning practices to prepare for their season.
The team had gathered at 6:30 a.m., and Hendrix said he was wondering whether Capers would be there. Then, he looked up and saw Capers running down a hill toward the practice field.
“I looked up and said, ‘There he is. Our man Cape.’ The whole team clapped and said the same thing as he ran down the hill.”
Scott’s sermon wrapped up the service.
Although the suspected killer’s name, Kierin Dennis, was never mentioned, Scott spoke of forgiveness for the 18-year-old, a graduate of the rival school, Lexington High, who has been charged with murder in the case.
“When you forgive, you become bigger and better,” Scott said. “Family, I know it’s going to be difficult, but you’re going to have to do it for your own good.”
He closed the service by saying, “Sleep on, Da’Von. You fought a good fight. You lived a good life. You kept your priorities straight.”
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.