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Family, friends gather outside Dreyfoos School of the Arts to remember alumnus killed by police

'He was just very happy,' mother of Romen Phelps says
Posted at 11:22 PM, May 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-21 23:22:24-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In a parking lot across the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts theater, near where Romen Phelps lost his life, family and loved ones of the 33-year-old gathered Saturday to remember their son, classmate and friend.

"I think this school is home for all of us," Lauren Wiles, a friend of Phelps, told WPTV. "This was a place that we all recall with fond memories."

His parents also reflected on the son they lost.

"He was just very happy, so I just want to keep his legacy that way, that he was a very happy person," Robin Jackman, Phelps' mother, said.

Phelps was a Dreyfoos School of the Arts alumnus who volunteered with the school's theater program.

Romen Phelps
Romen Phelps was identified as the suspect who crashed a van onto the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts campus before he was shot and killed by police.

But police said Phelps crashed his van through one of the gates on campus and started acting erratically during school hours last Friday.

That's when an off-duty police officer shot and killed him. Phelps' family said he was suffering from mental illness.

"Unprecedented," Robin Jackman said. "It's something that we've never seen before. But we just are so thankful to everybody who's reached out to us."

Family members said the Dreyfoos School theater was like a second home for Phelps and, despite the circumstances, question the actions of the off-duty officer.

"You know, if they don't understand, (if) they don't train undercover or off-duty police, didn't he have a Taser to tase him or something?" Phelps' stepfather wondered of the officer who pulled the trigger. "He doesn't have to go shoot him like a dog like that."

One by one, people took the stage, sharing their experiences with Phelps and, through shirts and posters, continued to raise awareness about mental health.

'For Those in crisis: We've got your back #RememberRomen' T-shirt at rally for Romen Phelps, May 21, 2022
Family and friends say Romen Phelps was suffering from mental illness and didn't deserve to die.

"This is a global issue and we are just here to unite and start having these difficult conversations, and that's what Romen would want us to do," Wiles said.

Police released a statement saying the officer who shot Phelps did so to protect children and staff.

That officer has been placed on administrative leave, which is department policy after a police-involved shooting.