“She didn't deserve it. She was cheated out of life at 21 years old”
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It was 4 a.m. when Tootie Posley's phone rang Sunday. It rang and rang, but she didn't answer because she was asleep and didn't hear it. Finally, it woke her up about an hour later.
"Cachet [Peterson]'s dead," Asia James said. "She got shot in the head."
"Nah. Not my Cachet," Posley replied. "Not my Cat."
Peterson, 21, was one of two women who were shot outside Southside Social early Sunday morning. Tiana Linares, 24, was also injured but is said to be in stable condition.
Posley hung up her phone and started scrolling through Facebook. That's where she saw post after post with the news of Peterson's death. Posley couldn't believe it. She didn't believe it until she heard it from one of Peterson's family members.
She fell to her knees and cried, "This can't be true, this can't be true."
"I didn't know what to do," she said. "My heart broke. It got so heavy."
She prayed to God and asked, "I know you make no mistakes, but why her? Why her, God? Why did you have to take Cachet? She didn't deserve it."
On Monday, countless friends and family members echoed that same sentiment — that Peterson didn't deserve to die like that. They described her as an upbeat, bubbly, happy-go-lucky kind of woman. Her smile could change the mood in a room, they said.
Friends said Peterson was focusing on work and saving up her money to go back to school. She had been enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University and was studying to become a nurse. But she didn't want to take out any loans and financial aid wasn't covering everything, her friends said.
Through tears and laughter, a small group of her friends on Monday recounted countless silly stories about Peterson and how she made them laugh with her quirky mannerisms. They laughed at the memories but cried because they knew that's all they had left.
"I'm crying because of her, but right now I'm smiling because of her," Posley said.
Quisha Williams, another close friend of Peterson's, said she tries to keep her mind on other things, but every time she closes her eyes, she sees Peterson's smile and dimples.
Kenya Jackson, Posley's mother, recalled a time when Peterson put herself into a trash bag because she "just wanted to know how it feels to be in a garbage bag and see if [she] could actually have it closed all the way up on [her]."
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"She was just a big bubbly ball," Jackson said.
Jackson said she was like a second mother to Peterson, and Monday was Jackson's birthday. She said Peterson had just visited her Wednesday.
"She got out of the car and said, 'Hey, mama! How you doin', mama?' And she came over and just hugged me," Jackson said. "She was like, 'I love you and I'm gon' try and make it to your birthday dinner.'"
That was the last time Jackson heard from her.
Just hours before her death, Peterson threw a surprise birthday party for her mother, Jennifer Peterson. They parted ways after her mother told her she loved her and blew her a kiss.
"She thanks God that he blessed her with Cachet for 21 years," Posley spoke on Jennifer Peterson's behalf. "She kissed her mama goodnight every night and told her bye before she went to work and gave her a kiss on the forehead every day before work. Cachet was her baby."
Posley, Yearby and Williams said they will help Peterson's family in any way they can with the funeral. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help pay for funeral costs.
"I'm going to be here to help her sister with whatever," Posley said. "I'm going to make sure when she goes, she's going to go how she wants to go. Looking nice and pretty, with her favorite color on. She going to be looking good."
Peterson's death hit Jackson especially hard, because she was also a victim of a drive-by shooting in 2016. That incident was a result of people targeting the wrong house.
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"That wasn't easy to live through, so I couldn't even imagine when those bullets went through the car," Jackson said. "She didn't even have a chance to take cover."
Talking to the young women in her living room, Jackson said, "Once you make it to that car and lock your doors, you feel like you're safe. Who would ever imagine that I get in my car, I sit and I think, 'This is where my life ends?'"
"She sat in the car and never got a chance."
Teshayla Yearby, another close friend of Peterson's, said she saw a graphic Facebook Live video of Peterson after she was shot and being taken out of the car. Through tears, she said she didn't know it was her friend at the time.
"She was crying, her mascara was running down her face," Yearby said of Peterson.
"Whoever did this, I pray to God that he take every ounce of [their] sleep till they cannot sleep, till they have to turn themselves in," Jackson said. "She never put herself in a position to be a part of any kind of violence to where somebody could hurt her. So for violence to find her? She didn't deserve it. She was cheated out of life at 21 years old."
Even so, Peterson's friends all said, had she survived, she would have still forgiven the shooter. And if she had lived to tell her story, they all agreed she'd have one message: "We gotta stop the violence."
Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.