TAMPA, Florida - From early on Monday afternoon, a crowd of friends and loved ones started to gather, and continued to grow. They all showed up to pay their respects to Family Dollar manager "J.R." Horsley Shorter, gunned down early Sunday morning during the armed robbery of his store.

Through songs and prayer, friends and family lined up in front of the now closed store to share memories.

PHOTOS: Family, friends & community members hold vigil for "J.R."

"He would come up there and make me feel good," said one longtime friend, who said Shorter would come visit her at the hospital where he volunteered. "He would come say some positive words to me. He would say hang in there."

Longtime friend and event organizer Gary Kuykendall said Monday's massive turnout shows just how much Shorter was loved across the community.

"He just had the biggest heart, the biggest heart I'd ever seen in my life," said Kuykendall. "His smile was infectious. I'd never seen him without one. He was just the greatest person I ever met."

Monday night, participants called for those who knew who committed the crime to turn the young man responsible into police.

See also: Family Dollar manager robbed, shot and killed

"Somebody knows! The mother, sister, brother, father... somebody knows who did this to us and it's not fair to us as a community," shouted one woman in the crowd. "So somebody better push him up!"

Those who knew Shorter best say they're not surprised the retired Army veteran jumped into action trying to help his employee being held up at gunpoint.

"The way he went out by defending another person, what can you say? He was the greatest," said childhood friend and former neighbor, Demetrious Tolbert.

Along with Shorter's mother and large family, the young man who was working with J.R. the morning of the shooting spoke to the crowd.

"It's so heartbreaking that he's gone," said the 20-year-old employee, who asked 10 News not to use his name because the gunman had not yet been apprehended. "He's going to be missed by so many people."

That employee said Shorter was not only his manager, but was much like a father figure and a friend he'll never forget.

"His last act he wanted to save me. Unfortunately, he paid the price for being a hero."

Anyone with information on the shooting can call Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay at 1-800-873-TIPS.

Follow 10 News Reporter Beau Zimmer on twitter @Zimm10

Read or Share this story: