Mark Vachon, brother of victim Tyreece Vachon and friend, Relando Rencher, speak on the shootings

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The shooting started before there was time to send the balloons up in the air at McCormick Park on Wednesday.

The balloon release was held around 6 p.m. that evening to mourn Tyreece Vachon, a 19-year-old shot to death at West Wind Apartments early Tuesday morning. He died from multiple gunshot wounds in what appears to be a dispute, but not related to any gang activity, according to a Fort Wayne police source.

That shooting also left a woman who has not been publicly identified fighting for her life.

Tyreece Vachon (left) and Zach Downing, who was injured during the balloon release Wednesday.

According to three witnesses who attended Vachon’s memorial service and spoke to WANE 15, a confrontation broke out over the West Wind shooting.

And that confrontation led to the killing of 18-year-old Brycen Demond Cassell-Thomas, aka, “Wealthy.”

Cassell-Thomas, described by those who knew him as Tyreece Vachon’s best friend, suffered multiple gunshot wounds at the balloon release and his death has been ruled a homicide, the Allen County Coroner said Thursday.

Three other people were shot and wounded at the memorial, as well, including Zach Downing.

Vachon, whose mother was incarcerated at a state prison during his teen years, once lived with Downing and Downing’s now ex-wife.

When Vachon turned 18, he moved out to live with his older sister, Kelee Vachon, Downing told WANE 15.

Kelee Vachon was shot in the leg at the balloon release, according to Downing and other witnesses there at the time. Downing said he was standing right next to Kelee Vachon when they both got shot.

Relando Rencher, a family friend of Tyreece Vachon, said people scattered for safety when the shots were fired.

“Everybody showed up with balloons as scheduled,” said Rencher, a well-known musician in Fort Wayne who was also involved a clothing line Tyreece Vachon created dubbed Fear None. “Right before, a fight broke out between two people and caused someone to start shooting at their legs. The shooter got shot and one person got hit on the crossfire.”

Rencher said he immediately attended to Kelee Vachon and used his sweater for a tourniquet.

“I didn’t have anything on my mind except to make sure she didn’t bleed out,” Rencher said. Kelee is back home now, he added.

A shooting at West Wind Apartments earlier this week may have sparked a shooting at McCormick Park on Wednesday.

Mark Vachon, Tyreece Vachon’s older brother who also attended the memorial, said he didn’t move when the shooting started.

“I literally stood there and just watched it all, as if I was a ghost. I couldn’t believe it,” Mark Vachon said. He and Downing have been business partners and they were all friends with Cassell-Thomas.

If there’s anything Mark Vachon wants people to know, it’s that the events could have been avoided if the young people involved hadn’t been drinking and hadn’t had guns.

“People are super lost in what’s going on. It’s so small and inner-circle,” he said. “There was no gang stuff. Emotions are running high.”

“I just want people to understand what’s really going on. Wealthy (Cassell-Thomas) had a gun out first and he paid with his life,” Mark Vachon said.

He also said he wanted to reach out to the family of the girl who was shot at West Wind Apartments and there would be no retaliation for Tyreece’s death.

Downing was headed into surgery for damage to his knee when he spoke to WANE 15 Thursday morning.

His injuries included a wound to a major artery and a broken tibia, he said.

“Stuff just went crazy,” Downing said.

Downing estimated the crowd to be about 100 people and said many of them showed up “for the wrong reasons” – they were people who had no relationship to Tyreece Vachon.

“People need to put guns down, especially the kids. There was no reason that any shots would have gone off yesterday. They walk around with guns, thinking they’re tough. All those kids yesterday – not one was at the hospital when he was pronounced dead,” Downing said.

Rencher said Tyreece always looked up to Downing as a father figure.

“He always taught him how to maneuver through life and stick to the right path. He’d just moved out and got his own house and I feel like it wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t move out,” Rencher said.

police investigate a scene near McCormick Park
The shooting at McCormick Park was a tragic follow to a shooting early Tuesday morning at West Wind Apartments. In total, two people are dead, a woman is in life-threatening condition and others are wounded due to the shootings.

He acknowledged there are Facebook and other social media photos that make Tyreece look as though he might have been in the streets.

“They just wanted to paint him as a gangster,” Rencher said.

Tyreece “bounced around for a while,” but his police record is minimal, according to Rencher. He spent time living with his grandmother, his brother, as well as Downing.

Tyreece graduated in 2022 from North Side High School, where he played football. Those who knew him described his clothing line – which included basic loungewear like T-shirts, hoodies and sweatpants – as successful and taking off.

“I never thought he would bring it to the heights that he did,” said Rencher.

A new order for 20 hoodies “showed up on my doorstep” the day he received news of Tyreece Vachon’s killing, according to Rencher.

It’s Rencher’s hope he and a partner will keep the line going.

Fort Wayne Police homicide sergeant David Klein said investigations into both the West Wind Apartments and McCormick Park shootings “are active and ongoing at this point.”

Although police do not want to make any comment, they “will continue to encourage the public to come forward with any information they might have,” Klein said.

Tips can be made on the P3 tipline or by calling Crime Stoppers at 260-436-7867.