On the day Dwayne Brunson was killed his youngest son celebrated his 3rd birthday.
"Dwayne would have wanted the birthday party to go on," Stacy Polkinghorne, a family friend, said Tuesday morning.
That was the kind of father Brunson was, she said. He always put his family first.
Brunson, of Great Bend, was at the Deuces Bar, 3105 N. Arkansas, on Saturday night and into early Sunday with some friends.
Then gunfire broke out at around 2 a.m. When Wichita police arrived, they found Brunson injured with multiple gunshot wounds. He died during surgery at around 8:15 a.m. Sunday, Lt. Todd Ojile said.
Brunson was "more that just a 27-year-old black man gunned down under suspicious circumstances," his aunt, Kemerlin Richards, said in an email to The Eagle. "He was loved, cherished, a great father, a good listener and one who always had a smile on his face."
A son's birthday
Brunson's partner, Mallory Stein, told friends and family about the shooting early Sunday -- the same day they had already planned to celebrate Kyvan's third birthday.
The food was scheduled to arrive. The decorations had been placed. The invitations had long been sent. And the party went on.
"She wanted to have the birthday party because that's what Dwayne would have wanted," Polkinghorne said. "They both worked really hard to get that party to where they wanted it."
Throughout the party, Stein had some breakdowns but, "she made sure to go to the bathroom, clean herself up and come back," her friend Xochitl Flores said.
Stein told her children about their father's death later that day.
"The boys were asking where he was, but Mallory was strong and just told them that they would talk later," she said. "We had the party and I believe she told them later that night."
Flores' son, Victor, is best friends with Stein and Brunson's oldest, Mikkel. After the news was broken to the second-graders, Mikkel asked for Victor to stay with him.
"(Stein) said Victor was Mikkel's support system and really helped him," Flores said.
Asked how Stein was able to stay strong throughout the party, Polkinghorne said that's how she's always been.
"She's an exceptional woman and mom," she said. "She has a very good support system here in Great Bend."
That became evident after Polkinghorne created a YouCaring account to help with Brunson's funeral costs. By Tuesday, they had already reached half of their goal.
"She's from the area and she's a hairdresser, so she knows a lot of people," Polkinghorne said. "Everybody wants to help out. The friends and family she has, there's just an outpouring of support."
A family man
Brunson and Stein were great partners, Polkinghorne said, and Brunson was a stay-at-home dad.
"They just had one of those relationships where they could just bounce ideas off of each other and they just worked so well as parents," she said.
The couple met while Brunson was playing basketball for Barton Community College.
"She was smitten with him almost instantly," Polkinghorne said. "He decided to stay locally and go to Fort Hays and they continued to see each other."
The couple continued to build their lives around each other, and had two sons.
"It's hard to imagine the boys won't get to see their relationship and form their ideas of relationships off of them, because it was just such a solid relationship," Polkinghorne said.
Richards said Brunson had big dreams, his biggest being a good father.
"Dwayne had a special love for children and for people," she said. He was 6 feet, 7 inches tall "and his presence was just as big."
Brunson's killer took memories away from Brunson's children that they hadn't yet made, Polkinghorne said.
"They're not going to be able to see him in action at dance parties, car trips, singing in the car, sports," she said. "He won't be able to mold the boys and teach them everything he knew."
But, he will live on through his sons, both women said.
"Dwayne had a smile that would melt anyone's heart and a (tooth) gap that is generational, which you can see in his sons," she said.
That smile is how Flores will remember Brunson, she said.
Brunson was with two other people at the bar when some kind of altercation took place, Ojile said. Police don't know what started the altercation, but said detectives think Brunson was involved.
At some point, someone inside the club shot a gun multiple times, police said.
The bar had been occupied by at least 35 people, but when officers arrived, there were less than a handful of people left.
Detectives are working to track down people who were there, but are getting very little cooperation with the ones they have talked to.
On Facebook, Stein begged for people to come forward with information.
"Two beautiful boys lost their father," she said. "I don't know how you can live with yourself knowing a man died."
Brunson was in town for a night to have some fun with his friends.
"No matter what the reasons were, this should have never happened," Polkinghorne said.
No arrests have been made.
"I pray whoever decided to end his life will be bought to justice and will not have the peace that they tried to take from us," Richards said. "But God is good and together with His help, we will come through. As Dwayne would want, our job is to make sure his children understand what a great father they have and these circumstances would be the only one that could ever take him from them."