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Statue honors late Tacoma teen's selflessness, 'You got this' attitude

Shalisa Hayes looks at a sculpture of her son Billy Ray Shirley III.
Katie Cotterill
Metro Parks Tacoma
Shalisa Hayes gazes at the statue of her son Billy Ray Shirley III at Tacoma's Eastside Community Center.

Metro Parks Tacoma will unveil a statue Saturday morning honoring a young man whose life was cut short by gun violence a decade ago.

In August 2011, 17-year-old Billy Ray Shirley III was shot and killed at a party in Tacoma. He was young, but he was already an active volunteer in the city’s Eastside neighborhood. And he was known for selflessly encouraging others around him.

Billy Ray’s spirit of service to his community inspired the opening of the Eastside Community Center three years ago.

Now, the $32 million facility has a six-foot, 200-pound bronze statue of Billy Ray.

It was created by local artist Jasmine Iona Brown, a resident of the nearby Salishan neighborhood. Brown worked closely on every detail with Billy Ray’s family, including his mom, Shalisa Hayes, who was instrumental in raising money for the community center.

The statue greets every visitor with Billy Ray's favorite phrase of encouragement — “You got this” — to serve as a permanent reminder of the teen's legacy.

Metro Parks Tacoma will publicly unveil the statue at 11 a.m. Saturday in a celebration at the Eastside Community Center, 1721 E. 56th St., Tacoma.

Kari Plog is a former KNKX reporter who covered the people and systems in Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties, with an emphasis on police accountability.