Shooting victim’s family and friends gather for balloon release ceremony

Friends and family members of Tim Reeves release balloons in remembrance Thursday night at Conservation Park in Pullman.

CODY COTTIER, Evergreen reporter

The father of Tim Reeves, an 18-year-old Pullman High School student killed earlier this week in a shooting, embraces loved ones as family and friends fill balloons to release in a memorial ceremony Thursday night.

And then Keith Reeves turns away, steps down the hill below the rest of the crowd at Pullman’s Conservation Park. Clutching a cluster of balloons, one red, one purple, two blue, he faces across the valley below. He wipes one eye, then the other. Again, left eye, right eye.

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Keith Reeves, Tim’s father, stands apart from the group while waiting for the balloon release.

Two balloons pop behind him, seemingly without reason.

“He’s here,” Reeves says. “Messing with people.”

About 50 relatives, friends and classmates gather to remember Tim Reeves. He is known to many as TJ or Bubba – a 6-foot-4-inch, well-over-200-pound, gentle giant.

Investigators are attempting to locate two local men suspected in his murder.

“He didn’t deserve to go out like this,” his half-brother Blaize Reeves says. “He’s too good of a kid.”

They write messages to Tim in marker on their balloons, words of farewell and fortitude: “Let your heart be light and your soul strong,” one reads. A long message begins “I will miss you Bubba.”

Another reads, “fly high. I love you, see you soon.”

As she waits for the release, one woman loses her grip on the balloon she’s holding.

“Grab it, grab it, grab it!” she says. A young boy reaches and almost catches it, but it just slips through his fingers and floats away.


A gentle giant

A Lynyrd Skynrd song plays in the background as they pass out balloons.

“Baby, be a simple kind of man,” it goes. “Be something you love and understand.”

The people who knew Tim best describe him as humble, kind and cheerful. His half-brother Tyler says even in the worst of times, Tim would find a way to be happy.

“No matter what kinda day it was,” Tyler says, “he always had a smile on his face.”

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Marena Knight, Tim’s mother, writes a message to him on her balloon.

And he always put a smile on other people’s faces. Even if Tim was in a bad mood, Tyler says, the problems of those around him came first. He was more concerned with making sure everyone else was OK.

Despite his size, people say Tim was a lover, not a fighter. He never used his weight against anyone, and Blaize says he wouldn’t harm a fly.

Tim’s stepmother, Rachel Reeves, hugs Blaize as she walks by.

“He was a professional hugger,” she says with a laugh, remembering Tim’s embrace.

He was born in Cle Elum and later lived in Yakima and Selah, until three years ago his father decided to remove them from what he saw as a dangerous environment. Tyler says Tim’s death hit the community hard because it seems out of place in a town like Pullman.

“We moved from Yakima to get away from violence,” he says.

When they first moved here, Tyler says, they often came to Conservation Park, on the western outskirts of Pullman. In a land of wheat, the pine trees around the park reminded them of the Cascade foothills of their childhood.

“It made us feel a little at home,” he says. “It’s kinda always been our spot.”

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Blaize Reeves shows his tattoos reading “family” and “friends,” the most important words in their family.

Family over everything

Blaize holds up his arms to display two tattoos, one on either forearm.

The right says “family,” the left says “friends.” His father and uncles made the markings a family tradition, and members of the second generation, including Tim, receive them when they come of age.

“He got his the day he turned 18,” Blaize says.

The connection is strong between these relatives. Blaize pulls back the right sleeve of his T-shirt to reveal the acronym F.O.E – “family over everything.”

“Nothing’s more important,” he says.

That was true for Tim from a young age. When their parents divorced, Tyler says, they supported each other through that struggle. They always enjoyed spending time and playing football together, and the rest of their seven siblings were close as well.

“We’ve always been together,” he says, “pretty much through everything.”

Now Tim’s loved ones must be together without him. They hug and cry, recall this or that memory and smile.

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Tyler Knight speaks about Tim before the letting the first balloon go.

The last of the group arrives and they hand out the final balloons. Tyler moves to the center to speak. “We really just need each other to be strong,” he says.

Reeves’s mother stands apart from the crowd as they release the balloons.

“I love you Bubba!” she cries in a hoarse voice, looking toward the sky.

Farther away, an infant babbles Reeves’s name, over and over, as the balloons drift out of sight into the air.

“Bubba, Bubba, Bubba.”

And then they’re gone.