Holding candles, hundreds of people gathered Saturday night in South Baltimore to honor Alex Wroblewski, the popular area bartender who was killed during a robbery Tuesday after leaving a convenience store in Locust Point.
Standing outside Francis Scott Key Elementary and Middle School, Patterson Park resident Lisa Hopkins took the microphone to address the crowd about her friend.
She spoke of their friendly rivalry over NFL games; how Wroblewski loved to debate anybody about anything; and how he always offered to walk people home from the bar where he worked, the Rowhouse Grille, in Federal Hill.
Then she took in the size of the crowd, which had grown to more than 500, and choked back tears.
"Alex, I don't know if you realize the amount of people you've touched during your short life," she said, looking at the crowd. "This place will never be the same without you. … We love you, Albo."
"Love you Albo!" some shouted in response.
The vigil came hours after Wroblewski's funeral, which was held at Our Lady of Good Counsel Roman Catholic Church in Locust Point and attended by hundreds.
Wroblewski, 41, was fatally shot Tuesday morning outside a Royal Farms store, near the new Anthem House development off Fort Avenue.
He had stopped at the store on Key Highway around 1:15 a.m. for a snack of milk and cookies after work. He was followed out of the store and shot to death by a gunman who jumped into a vehicle and fled, police said.
Police have arrested three suspects — all with out-of-state addresses — and charged them with murder.
Police have charged Tonya Arnita Hayes, 37, of Atlanta, and two men, Marquese Anthony Winston, 23, and Tivontre Gatling-Mouzon, 20, both of Richmond, Va.
City Councilman Eric T. Costello wrote on Facebook that Wroblewski's family is encouraging donations to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in lieu of flowers. He posted a video of Wroblewski giving an enthusiastic speech in a bar encouraging people to give to the fundraising team Wroblewski's Warriors.
"As many of you know, Alex initially began fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) as a way of honoring his late uncle, John Wroblewski," he wrote. "This is a cause that Alex became more passionate about over time ... Family and friends have asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the LLS, through the following link: http://events.lls.org/MD/AlexWroblewski."
At the vigil, Costello said the turnout — which he said was close to 1,000 — was evidence of the tight-knit nature of the Locust Point community. "This community runs generations deep, looking out for each other," he said.
Looking out at the sea of lights in front of him, Costello called the killing "senseless."
"I am incredibly sad and heartbroken, but what I see out here tonight is beautiful," he told the crowd. "It makes me have hope. It makes me have hope that our city is going to use this moment as an opportunity to come together."
Vigil organizer Bryan Burnette of Locust Point — a friend of Wroblewski's — said the purpose was to "honor our friend, support his family and fight back."
Burnette said many in South Baltimore are "shook, stunned and angered" at the killing.
"I'm just tired of the crime," he said. "My friends, my family, I just want them to be safe."
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis spoke at the vigil and encouraged the community to stand strong and show their resolve against crime.
"I feel every anxiety, every frustration you do. My heart breaks like yours does," he said. "You're here for a reason. Stay. Fight. Work harder. Work with us. I promise we're going to keep working with you."