On Friday night, hundreds of residents gathered in a Dawson County parking lot to participate in a truck rally honoring Kaleb Duckworth, a local teen who died following a fight at the Dawson County Applebee’s restaurant last week.
Dawson County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to the Dawson County Applebee’s restaurant at about 10 p.m., on Sunday, July 25, after receiving reports that someone had been knocked out during a fight. Duckworth was taken from the scene to a local hospital with severe brain trauma, where he died on Tuesday, July 27.
DCSO investigators charged Daniel Lee Roberts, 20, with two counts of felony murder on Friday, July 30, for allegedly causing the death of Kaleb Duckworth.
Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson said detectives are still investigating but have determined that Roberts and Duckworth knew each other prior to the incident and that the fight may have involved an argument on social media.
According to Kaleb’s mother, Amanda Duckworth, her son, who was 19, loved his truck and spending time with friends. One of his favorite activities was hanging out with his friends in the parking lot of the old Dawson Village Kroger, now Launch Trampoline Park and the No Longer Bound thrift store, off Ga. 400 in Dawson County.
“Our son loved to go hang out at the old Kroger and we never understood what he did there but we saw it last night,” Amanda Duckworth said. “They said they’d never seen that many people go, but usually like 15 to 20 people will show up on the weekends and they’ll just all hang out in the parking lot and act silly and have fun together.”
Amanda Duckworth said that two of the boys that participated in these weekend activities decided that they wanted to organize a truck rally in honor of Kaleb. They spread the word, and kids from all over who had been touched by Kaleb’s story gathered, first at Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville until they were told by law enforcement that they had to leave. But not to be stopped, the group decided to drive their trucks to Dawson County to meet in the parking lot Kaleb had frequented so often with his friends.
“Every one of those kids drove all the way to Dawsonville because they wanted to do it for Kaleb,’ Amanda Duckworth said. “There were over 400 kids there; some of them never even met him but they’d seen his story and heard how he loved trucks and being around people so they just all showed up.”
According to Amanda Duckworth, she and her husband drove their son’s truck to the rally in honor of him. She said that seeing all the lives that Kaleb had touched, both directly through his friendship and indirectly through his story, was overwhelming for both of them.
“We drove his truck down there; it was hard but man we felt so much love when we got there,” Amanda Duckworth said. “We’re just so proud of him seeing he touched that many people; we knew he had a handful of friends but seeing that many people come together for him was amazing.”
Officers from the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office were at the rally to help with crowd control, but Amanda Duckworth said that they did much more than just help keep order.
“Dawson County Sheriff’s Office was amazing; they came and monitored the parking lot to make sure the kids weren’t burning out and stuff but they let us stay there as long as we wanted to,” Amanda Duckworth said. “And they actually hung out with kids and took pictures with them and stuff; most of them knew Kaleb because of hanging out in that parking lot.”
She said that participants were at the rally for hours, not leaving until around midnight. During the rally, the kids hung out at their trucks and with each other, but they also had an organized time of prayer and scripture reading and took up a donation for Kaleb’s family.
“Some young boy showed up just to pray; he did a prayer and then he read some scripture to everybody out there and all the kids left their trucks and came and gathered for that,” Amanda Duckworth said. “Then they took up a donation and every kid in that parking lot came up there and gave to him — I wanted to cry but I couldn’t cry ’cause I was just so proud of him.”
In the midst of such a difficult time for Kaleb’s entire family, Amanda Duckworth said that it’s the community and things like the rally that have been helping her and her family get through it all.
“The community and those kids — they’re carrying us through this,” Amanda Duckworth said. “It was amazing.”