Teammates, friends and relatives gather to remember Diren Dede at his football club SC Teutonia 1910 in Hamburg, Germany. Photo: Getty
Missoula, Montana: The father of a 17-year-old exchange student shot dead in Montana departed the US on Thursday after criticising 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, Mr Dede told German news agency DPA 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 home owner in Missoula, on Sunday allegedly fired four blasts from a shotgun into his garage, killing Diren Dede who was inside. He faces a charge of deliberate homicide.
It is not clear what the teen was doing in the garage. Prosecutors allege Mr Kaarma shot into his garage without warning after Dede tripped alarms.
Celal Dede said he hoped Mr 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."
The 46-year-old father said he would not have allowed his son to participate in the exchange program if he had known.
Mr Kaarma's attorney Paul Ryan told Associated Press on Wednesday his client planned to plead not guilty and was afraid for his life. Mr Kaarma did not know whether the boy was armed or what his intentions were when he entered the garage, Mr Ryan said. "The young man made a choice and put the wheels in motion that ultimately created this whole situation."
A makeshift memorial appeared on Diren Dede's host family's front lawn, a block from where the shooting happened. Amid the flowers, a German flag, soccer ball and balloons were bottles and cans of Sprite - Dede's favourite drink - arranged in the shape of his initials "DD".
Randy Smith and Kate Walker, who hosted Dede in their home, said the neighbours and friends created the memorial to show their support and ease their grief. The couple has been besieged by both German and US 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," Ms 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, Mr 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 neighbours and members of his soccer club arranged a farewell game on Wednesday night in his home town 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 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 US after the school term ended in just a few weeks.