Michael Kearins once told his younger sister that "a brother's work is never done." As the second-youngest child and only male sibling in a family with five sisters, Michael, 17, assumed a protective role. He called his sisters daily, just to check in. He went out of his way to make sure friends and relatives felt special, particularly on their birthdays. His latest career dreams included being a police officer or mortician--although he hadn't totally abandoned his hope of becoming a professional rapper. "You could tell he really started to mature," one of his older sisters, Heather Kearins, told msnbc.com. "He wanted to be a better person."
Michael, who most recently lived in Edgewood, Md., was an independent teenager who loved to imitate his sisters or capture playful photos with his six nieces and nephews. But he was serious, too--especially about his girlfriend of the past year. "She was all he ever talked about," his younger sister, Sherri Nolet, wrote in an email to msnbc.com.
"He would go out of his way to make anyone smile, even if he was at his worst moment," Nolet said. "He didn't care what anyone thought because, no matter what people said, he was always going to be Michael."
Michael and his friend were at a park in Edgewood on Jan. 31 when both teenagers were shot. His friend survived, but Michael died the day of the shooting.