Wichita drowning victim’s mom: ‘Friends don’t leave people dead in pools’

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Family and friends of the Wichita teen, who was left for dead at an apartment pool, are searching for answers.

On Wednesday night, dozens of people gathered at Aley Park to remember 17-year-old Phillip Harris.

“He was like family to all of us. He was our brother,” said Phillip’s friend Steven Shugart. “We would stay up all night talking about life and how we wanted to better ourselves, go to college and get out of Wichita.

Many of Phillip’s friends wore shirts that read ‘Rest in Paradise’ and ‘Justice for Phillip’ to Wednesday night’s vigil. His mother, Velarie Wallace, described her son as someone who was passionate and always looking out for others.

“He cut grass, washed dishes, even did his sister’s chores,” said Velarie Wallace.

Phillip would have been a senior in high school in the fall. He passed away on Friday, July 1.

“Very heartbreaking because you don’t expect to bury a child before you,” Wallace said.

Wichita police said Phillip and three teen girls went swimming at the Horizons East Apartments on Thursday night. Friday morning, police said a maintenance worker found Phillip at the bottom of the pool.

“He kept telling me that the day before, ‘Mom I am going to make you so proud, I am going to make you proud,’ and it is all robbed from me and I am still trying to believe it,” Wallace said.

Wallace is still trying to come to terms with how her son died. Investigators said the girls Phillip was with never called 911, even after they found his dead body, because they were scared.

“That was cold-hearted,” Wallace said. “Friends don’t leave people dead in pools.”

Wallace wants justice for Phillip.

“They are going to be punished. They need to be punished. Something more has got to happen,” she said.

No arrests have been made in the case. Wallace said she plans to file a lawsuit against the three teens or their parents.

In the meantime, Phillip’s friends are trying to remember the good times they had with him.

“It’s a part of us. He’s a part of us. We can’t do this without him,” Shugart said.

A funeral service for Phillip is scheduled for Saturday.

The family has set up a gofundme to help pay for the service. 

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