Over a hundred friends of slain German exchange student Diren Dede gathered on the soccer field at Fort Missoula Friday night.

Holding candles and gathered around Dede's host family, there were lots of tears and hugs as friends held hushed conversations, remembering the small things that seemed unimportant at the time, but with the 17 year-old's death early Sunday, April 27, suddenly seemed important to share.

Diren Dede Vigil 1
photo by Peter Christian

Randy Smith remarked quietly, "Diren was 16 when he came to us last year, but he acted so much older. He just had a sparkle in his eyes that made you like him instantly."

Someone in the crowd began singing the hymn "Amazing Grace", and many joined in, as Kate Walker released a bouquet of colorful balloons, some in the shape of soccer balls, into the twilight. As they drifted out of sight, Walker said quietly.. "Goodbye, Diren."

Dede was killed by a homeowner early in the morning of April 27, when Markus Kaarma fired a shotgun four times into the darkened garage where the 17 year-old was standing. Kaarma was charged with deliberate homicide, but his attorney, Paul Ryan, claims Kaarma has defending his home and family from an intruder. Ryan says Kaarma will plead not guilty when he appears in District Court.

Dede's father traveled from Germany to claim his son's body, which was transported back to Germany. The family said Diren will be buried in his homeland of Turkey. Before leaving Montana, the boy's father criticized the gun culture in Montana, and questioned why his son was shot to death for trespassing on someone else's property.

The incident and its aftermath has brought a sharp focus on Missoula from around the world, with news crews from Germany interviewing friends of the slain 17 year-old. Social media has been filled with thousands of comments, sharpening the differences between those who maintain they have the right to defend their home and family with firearms, and those who feel that attitude led to Dede's death.

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