MISSOULA — The father of a 17-year-old exchange student shot dead in Montana departed the U.S. on Thursday after criticizing the nation’s gun culture and arranging for his son’s body to be flown back to Germany.
Celal Dede flew out of Missoula after securing the release of Diren Dede’s body, which was transported from Montana on Wednesday afternoon, German consulate spokeswoman Julia Reinhardt said.
Before he departed, Celal Dede told the German news agency dpa that he had never imagined his son could be shot for simply entering somebody’s property.
“America cannot continue to play cowboy,” Celal Dede said.
Markus Kaarma, a homeowner in Missoula, Montana, on Sunday fired four blasts from a shotgun into his garage, killing Diren Dede who was inside. He faces a charge of deliberate homicide.
It’s not clear what the teen was doing in the garage. Prosecutors allege Kaarma shot into his garage without warning after Dede tripped alarms.
Kaarma’s attorney, Paul Ryan, told The Associated Press Wednesday that his client plans to plead not guilty and was afraid for his life. Kaarma didn’t know whether the boy was armed or what his intentions were when he entered the garage, Ryan said.
“The young man made a choice and put the wheels in motion that ultimately created this whole situation,” Ryan said.
Celal Dede said he hoped Kaarma would receive a fair punishment.
“I didn’t think for one night that everyone here can kill somebody just because that person entered his backyard,” Dede said.
The 46-year-old father said he wouldn’t have allowed his son to participate in the exchange if he had known.
A makeshift memorial appeared on Diren Dede’s host family’s front lawn, a block away from where the shooting happened. Amid the flowers, German flag, soccer ball and balloons were bottles and cans of Sprite — Dede’s favorite drink — arranged in the shape of his initials, “DD.”
Randy Smith and Kate Walker, who hosted Dede in their home, said the neighbors and friends created the memorial to show their support and ease their grief. The couple has been besieged by both German and U.S. media interview requests, and they said they had a message they wanted to pass on to the citizens of Germany.
“We want them to know this is not America. It’s one person, and the rest of the community is so supportive,” Walker said.
Dede was to return to Germany in June after living with them since October. He instantly made dozens of friends through his love of soccer, Smith said. Dede loved the outdoors and talking politics with his host family, he said.
Both declined to answer questions about what happened that night or who was with Dede, saying they were waiting for answers from the investigation.
Dede’s mother and two sisters, hundreds of friends and neighbors and members of his soccer club arranged a farewell game Wednesday night in his hometown of Hamburg.
Many were sporting T-shirts with Dede’s picture and holding posters and photos of the killed teenager.
A big banner saying “Our brother is dying while America is looking on” was put up on the sidelines of the soccer field. Some bystanders laid roses for Dede.
Dpa reported that Dede would be buried in Bodrum, Turkey, after a memorial service at Yeni-Beyazit Mosque in Hamburg. Dede’s relatives are German-Turkish immigrants.
The teen was studying for a year at a high school in Missoula and was to leave the U.S. after the school term ended in just a few weeks.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.