Branden was just 5 years old when he stepped outside his home, thinking it would be a day like any other as he followed his brothers. Then, suddenly, boom — his life was cut short in the blink of an eye.
Branden Weaver Jr, a 5-year-old Phoenix boy, was affectionately known around his Arizona neighborhood as “Butter.” And, the smooth little man was loved by many. “He was cheerful, always had a smile on his face, loving, caring, smiling, loved to play, play with the kids,” said Denise Nealy, a family friend.
Butter was helpful too. “I’m gonna miss his face coming through my gate,” Denise added, describing how he would peek through her gate every day, asking to take her trash out. Sadly, Butter won’t be around the apartment complex to offer a helping hand after tragedy struck just outside his home on a Thursday afternoon.
“That baby was trying to follow his brothers and them across that street and go play,” Denise recalled. “He stepped out between them cars, and it was the wrong time and cost him his life,” she added. When Butter stepped out onto Maryland Avenue from between two parked vehicles, he was struck by a pickup truck driven by a 71-year-old man.
Witnesses performed CPR at the scene before Butter was transported to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Phoenix Fire Department spokesman Capt. Rob McDade said, but it was too late. The boy had suffered multisystem trauma and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Sadly, other children in the neighborhood witnessed the horrific ordeal, which had left the community shaken.
“I looked over and there was a car and Branden was lying in the street, I almost burst into tears, but I was able to keep myself together and call 911,” said Butter’s 10-year-old friend, David Cummings, who was at the scene of the accident immediately after Butter was hit.
After the 2003 Chevrolet pickup collided with the boy, the driver remained at the scene. Officers do not believe impairment or excessive speed was a factor, according to Phoenix police. Family, friends, and neighbors seem to feel differently, however, pointing to what they believe is to blame for the unfortunate incident and demanding changes.
Many have long feared that this nightmare could become a devastating reality, having worried about the busy street, where lots of children often playing outside. Now, instead of playing, Butter’s friends have been forced to say goodbye after what they believe was a preventable accident.
Family and neighbors have called for measures to slow down traffic on the road where Butter was hit with many demanding a reduced speed limit on the road, the installation of speed bumps, or both. They erected a temporary sign, asking people to slow down, in the place where Butter took his last steps.
“We all love each other here, and the only thing I ask for and pray for and request for is that they put some speed bumps in this area,” Denise said the day after the tragic incident. “It’s sad for these babies. We worry about them, and it hit home yesterday when that baby Branden got hit. It hit home hard.”
A memorial was created on the sidewalk near the scene of the accident, where many signed posters or left candles in Butter’s memory. A crowd of friends and neighbors also released a collection of balloons into the sky during a vigil, where many, including Butter’s father, expressed their deep grief over the senseless loss.
“My son was the best baby ever, he could do no wrong,” Branden Weaver Sr said while standing in front of a crowd of dozens who had gathered at the vigil. “For him to just get hit by a car and then pass away, that’s just crazy to me,” the grief-stricken father added as he broke down in tears.
“He was like the shine of the sun, you know, and with him not being here, it’s dark,” said Saronikah Trotter, Butter’s 15-year-old cousin, who described him as a fun and playful boy who loved to eat. But, it was the words of 11-year-old Bishop Goff, a neighbor, that should really strike a chord with us all: “For every family that has a kid that can hear this, hold them tight.“