Breaking News
More () »

'Left this world better than he found it' | Portsmouth man working to curb gun violence killed in crash

Between his friendships, his family and his passion for keeping young kids from going down a dark path, he leaves behind a larger-than-life legacy.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — A Portsmouth man’s mission to leave the world better than he found it abruptly ended last week when he was killed in a car crash.

The accident left 37-year-old Brian Credle dead, along with 35-year-old Michael Piovane. A man and woman were also seriously injured.  

On any given day, you could find Credle driving a truck marked "HOPE," whether he was delivering food or taking a struggling kid out to lunch.

"Brian spent two-thirds of his day, his waking day, in that truck," said Bishop Frank Allen, Credle's mentor and father figure.

Now, it sits empty in the HOPE Charitable Services parking lot.

"When I heard it was him, my heart just dropped," said Brantley Ross, a fellow volunteer at the nonprofit. "No one can fill his shoes."

RELATED: Crash on Frederick Boulevard in Portsmouth leaves 2 dead

Credle spent years turning his own life around after struggling with anxiety, depression and drug use. He turned those struggles into action and spent his days volunteering with the Portsmouth nonprofit.

Friends call him the backbone of the organization. He was loved by so many -- a fact that became evident when people lined up to share their stories of him.

"He was just like a big, tender giant," Leroy Reynolds recalled.

He's known Credle since he was a kid. Reynolds said he's watched him grow from a "wild" child to a caring man.

Jacynthia Jenkins agreed, calling Credle her "big brother."

"He was like a protector," she said.

Credle leaves behind his 10-year-old son, Jaxon, his daughter, Adrienne, as well as his fiancée, Jessi Merritt, who was severely injured in the accident.

"He cared. He had a genuine heart for people," said Kelly Williams, who called Credle her right-hand man at the nonprofit.

His work didn’t stop at the church walls.

13News Now sat down with Credle just three weeks ago when he told us what the "violence interrupters" were doing amid rising gun violence.

RELATED: 'Violence interrupters' work to keep Portsmouth teens out of trouble

He said he built relationships in what he called "hot spots," and was more often than not alerted when something was going to go down. Their mission was to get individuals out of a potentially dangerous circumstance or attempt to diffuse a violent situation.

"Some of the places that I go, a lot of people I don’t think would go," he said during our June 23 interview. "You just try to prevent anything from happening and spread some love."

A sentiment Jenkins echoed.

"He took a lot of risks and went a lot of places people don't go. He went in the thick of it, and he didn't mind if bullets were flying. He didn't mind being in that situation," Jenkins said.

His 10-year-old son, Jaxon, also sat in on that interview. It was clear he shares his father’s passion for helping others.

“It’s okay to not know, but it’s not okay to not try,” Jaxon said at the time.

"I don’t know where he gets this wisdom from," Credle said in response, laughing.

Allen, who said Credle is like a son to him, said in terms of trying to cut down on crime in the city, his death leaves a big hole.

"Looking at it from a pragmatic position, you can't help but panic a little. But looking at it from a spiritual position, if God raised up Brian Credle, surely he's got somebody else in the wings," Allen said.

RELATED: Portsmouth summer camp could close due to lack of funding

He said if people take anything away from Credle’s life, he hopes it’s this lesson:

"That you don’t have to have everything together to help somebody. You don’t have to keep waiting until you get it together," he said.

Between his friendships, his children and his passion for keeping young kids from going down a dark path, he leaves behind a larger-than-life legacy.

"He told us shortly before he passed that he felt he had finally found his purpose. That he was able to help people, that he was able to help young men that were in positions that he used to be in and he was able to make a difference in the world. I'm really glad that he was able to find that before he passed because not a lot of people do," said Kameron Billings, a friend at HOPE. "I know he left this world better than he found it."

John Michael Piovane, better known as John, was also killed in the wreck. Allen said he was also a volunteer with HOPE Charitable Services and was a good friend of Credle’s.

Portsmouth police said they are still investigating what led up to the crash.

Friends of Credle have set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for hospital bills and his funeral.

The funeral will be this Saturday, July 23, at 11 a.m. at HOPE at 3516 Winchester Dr. Allen said all are welcome.

Following the service, Credle will ride in his beloved truck one last time before he is laid to rest at Interment Mount Olive Cemetery.


Before You Leave, Check This Out