Hundreds of people gathered outside a South Richmond church Saturday night to honor the short life of 8-year-old Martin Cobb, a Richmond boy who is said to have died protecting his older sister from an attacker.
Earlier in the evening before the vigil began, loved ones gathered around a sign in Martin’s yard on Brandon Road near the church. “Martin: A real hero lived, fought and died here,” the sign said.
“He had a heart of a lion,” said neighbor Andrew Patillo, praising the boy for fighting for his sister. “He stood so tall, to be so small.”
Meanwhile, authorities said Saturday that they had arrested a 16-year-old boy who is charged with murder of Martin and strangulation of Martin’s sister, who survived Thursday’s attack.
Police did not name the suspect because he’s a minor.
Authorities have said that Martin and his sister both were assaulted during Thursday’s incident about 6:30 p.m. near their home in the 200 block of Brandon Road. Martin’s sister, who is under age 13, was sent to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Authorities have said that Martin suffered severe head trauma.
Hundreds of people stood outside Abundant Life church during Thursday’s vigil.
Charles Willis, executive director of Citizens Against Crime, told the audience that the message is quickly spreading nationwide that Martin is a hero.
“I’m going to remember him as a soldier. He died a soldier,” Ebony Hollenquest, a cousin of Martin, said shortly before the vigil.
Relatives said that Martin, also known as Marty, was quiet and loving and had admired his sister.
One neighbor said the tiny boy literally was connected to his sister’s hip the last time she saw the two, because she was carrying Martin on her hip.
During the vigil, speakers said Martin should be seen as a role model for men who should respect and defend women at all costs.
“Little Marty will never be forgotten,” Richmond City Council member Reva M. Trammell told the crowd.
She said people will remember his smile and his ultimate sacrifice for his sister.
An online petition directed to the White House asked that Martin be recognized for his heroism. As of Saturday night, the petition had more than 700 signatures.
“He thought only of his sister’s well-being and reacted in the only way he could, attempting to save her from harm,” the petition states. “Please recognize his courage and let it be an example to others for how heroes come in all sizes.”
People have also turned to social media to call the boy a hero.
Marc A. Diaz tweeted that Martin “stood for justice” when defending his sister.
Chesterfield County/Colonial Heights Crime Solvers tweeted Friday that Martin is “RVA’s greatest superhero,” adding: “Heroes live forever.”
Neighbors said Martin and his sister attended Redd Elementary School.
A fund has been established at Wells Fargo Bank called the “Keys for Marty Foundation.” Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo branch, according to an aunt of the victims.
Relatives and neighbors said Martin was often seen riding a Big Wheel in the neighborhood.
Neighbors said they’ve been told the suspect lives in the area, but it was unclear what relationship he had with the victims, if any.
Hollenquest said the victims’ family wants the perpetrator to be brought to justice, regardless of his age or mental state. She said anybody capable of such a violent attack needs to be taken off the streets.