INDIANAPOLIS — On Monday night, family and friends of Richard Donnell Hamilton came together to remember the beloved Indianapolis coach and mentor.
Dozens of black and gold balloons were released in his memory outside the Martin Luther King Community Center near Tarkington Park.
Hamilton, known as “Coach Nell,” founded the Indy Steelers Youth Football program in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood.
“When you mentor kids and you coach, you don’t know the impact you have until you are gone,” said Damon Lee, Hamilton’s cousin.
Last week, the 43-year-old father became a victim of the same gun violence he worked so hard to keep his players away from.
State police said Hamilton was shot and killed in an apparent road rage shooting on Interstate 65 near Greenwood. It’s a tragedy that has left a void in this tight-knit football family.
“It’s been devastating. It’s been very rough. A lot of sleepless nights. It’s been very hard on the family as a whole,” Lee said.
Remembering Richard Donnell Hamilton
It’s also been very difficult for his young players to process.
“It hit me hard because, to all of us, he was basically our father more than our coach,” said Miguel Downey, one of Hamilton’s Steelers players.
Downey said they will always remember the important life lessons Coach Nell taught them.
“He wanted us to push way past our limits and reach the next level and be the best,” Downey said.
“He would do anything just to see us stay in football and stay out of violence because that’s pretty much where we all came from,” said Karter Massey, also a Steelers player.
It’s those lessons of resilience and strength, on and off the field, Hamilton’s family hopes the community will remember.
“Just because he is gone, do not forget the lessons that you learned through him. Those lessons should stay in those kids and this community forever,” Lee said. “He truly believed that a regular person could make a difference on so many lives.”
So far, police have not made any arrests in this case. Investigators are hoping someone who may have seen something will step up with information.
Detectives are asking anyone with dash cameras who were in the area of I-65 and County Line Road in Greenwood between 6:20 and 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 11 to review their cameras and contact the Indiana State Police at 317-899-8577.
Anybody with information about this crime can also anonymously report information to Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-262-TIPS.