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Marion mourns teen death

NOT FORGOTTEN:Marion High School Senior Shakyjia Scott holds up a poster she made for students to sign after the death of their friend and classmate Payton Rogers, 18, of Marion.

BY Kaitlin Gebby

kgebby@chronicle-tribune.com

Students and staff at Marion High School are mourning the loss of one of their own.

Payton Rogers, 18, of Marion, died in a car accident on Friday night. She was driving south on Washington Street around 11 p.m. on Friday, when a police cruiser driven by Marion Police Officer Brian Davis collided with her vehicle at the intersection of Washington and Third streets.

Davis was on his way with Officer Gregg Melton to assist in an arrest. He had activated his lights and siren, according to MPD. Indiana State Police, who have taken over the investigation, said Rogers ran a red light as the police vehicle went through the intersection, causing the collision.

Rogers was pronounced dead at the scene, and her passenger, Baleeve Gregory, was helicoptered to Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne for her injuries, where she remains in critical condition.

The accident is still under investigation by ISP. Officers Davis and Melton are expected to return to work “whenever they’re ready,” Deputy Chief Stephen Dorsey said Saturday.

Rogers was just three weeks away from graduation. Counseling was offered for friends of Rogers and Gregory on Monday, where some students learned of the accident and Rogers’ death as they walked through the doors, according to Social Services Specialist Ed Velazquez.

Velazquez said it’s not only important to acknowledge the death of their classmate, but to understand that each person will “approach death in different ways.”

“This is a time when our senses are heightened, where every little thing will remind us of the empty seat and who used to fill it,” he said.

He said he and other social workers from Marion Community Schools spent the day listening to students, comforting them, and letting them know that it’s normal and okay to mourn.

One student, Shakyjia Scott, a senior, expressed the loss of her friend by making a banner for students to sign and write words of comfort to the Rogers family. Scott wanted to offer the banner to the Rogers and also display it at graduation on June 3.

Students at Eastbrook High School are also in mourning. Last Sunday, Payton Boucher was driving northbound on 600 West, near Ind. 218. According to a Huntington County Coroner press release, Boucher, 17, ran a stop sign and was hit by a semi-truck. 

Eastbrook Principal Pat McLaughlin said they also created a banner for students to sign and offered counseling to friends and classmates. 

“It was a big hit, especially this close to the end of the year,” he said. “The best thing for these kids right now is to be around their peers and talk about it. Remembering the good times with people who are feeling the same pain can offer healing, I think.” 

Principal Keith Burke said Gregory is still recovering from multiple fractured bones, a concussion, and other injuries at Lutheran.

Several students visited Gregory over the weekend, bringing her flowers and various gifts to comfort her. Students who continued to visit her have reported she’s making improvements despite still being in critical condition, according to Burke.

“We don’t know when she’ll be out,” he said. “There seems to be a positive outlook, though.”

Though Advanced Placement testing was happening on Monday, Burke said students made time within their classrooms to have a moment of silence honoring their classmate. He said he expects the somber feeling to hang over the halls for the next few weeks before graduation.

CORRECTION: The article has been updated with the correct spelling of Velazquez. The photo caption has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Shakyjia.