As family and loved ones said goodbye to 16-year-old Kelmyne J. Jones Jr. on Friday, one question was being asked repeatedly: How did the 14-year-old boy charged with killing him manage to get the gun used in the shooting?
There were no satisfactory answers.
Kelmyne, who was known by his middle name, Jowyn, died at about 4 p.m. last Saturday during a brawl on the 200 block of Northland Avenue between two groups of youngsters reportedly involved in a territorial rivalry.
Myles D. Taylor III , 14, allegedly retrieved a handgun hidden beneath a nearby bush as Jowyn held another boy in a headlock, witnesses said. Taylor fired the gun, police said, and Jowyn staggered away before collapsing and dying.
Jowyn’s mother said it should have never have come to that.
Just a couple hours before going to her son’s funeral at True Bethel Baptist Church, Tanesha Harris scolded residents on Northland for not intervening before the fight escalated.
“When you see a bunch of children, and that’s all they really are, coming up the street, call 911. Don’t wait until it gets serious. The community needs to step up, be more active,” said a somber Harris, as she fixed her hair in the Goulding Avenue home she had shared with her son. “I just wish my son was never on Northland and that the community had done more. I can’t bring my son back.”
Early Friday afternoon, just as services for Jowyn were starting, neighbors of Taylor said his family had moved out of their Northland Avenue apartment soon after the fatal shooting and that it was hard for them to believe the allegations against the teenager, who was arrested late Wednesday and charged as an adult with second-degree murder.
“Myles was an average kid. He played basketball, he didn’t smoke weed and I never knew him to have a gun. This was a shock. One day he’s out playing and the next, he’s going to jail the rest of his life,” said Michael Ray.
So how could a 14-year-old have a loaded gun?
It’s a question neighbors in this well-kept East Side neighborhood wish they didn’t have to ask themselves.
“It’s crazy that he had access to a gun. He’s 14,” said 17-year-old Ezeriya Brooks. “What does he need a gun for?”
Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said he also is stumped.
“You can’t make sense of why a 14-year-old or anybody would shoot somebody else over what appears to be nonsense,” Derenda said.
Michael Carter, a friend of Jowyn’s, explained that young people sometimes look for attention and go about attempting to impress others in ways that are dangerous.
“Everyone wants to make a name for themselves,” said Carter, 20, who lived a couple blocks from Jowyn’s Goulding Avenue home.
Chris Max, another of Jowyn’s friends, said the best way to avoid the culture of violence is to stay in school.
“Be focused and mind your own business,” Max said.
“Sometimes that doesn’t work,” Carter interrupted, as they and other friends of the deceased sat on a porch at Goulding and Woltz avenues, trying to come to terms with what happened.
When asked how guns could end up in the hands of youngsters, Max said, “You got the money, you could buy anything.”
Demetress Jones, 18, found himself in a odd position: friend of Jowyn and cousin of the alleged killer.
“It was probably peer pressure that caused him to do that. He’s really not like that,” Jones said of Taylor.
When asked what he would say to his younger cousin if he had the chance, Jones said, “I’d smack him and tell him what he did was stupid. He did the wrong thing.”
David James, 43, a longtime resident of the East Ferry-Woltz neighborhood, said it is the job of adults to steer young people away from guns and violence.
Adults, he added, often fail at living up to their responsibilities, partly because they are afraid.
“If you don’t say anything, kids will do what they want,” James said. “Neighbors need to speak up. As parents, we need to instill morals and values in our children. It’s a continuing battle. You have to keep preaching it over and over.” James said he is the father of 12 children.
He and others on Goulding added that it was their understanding Taylor was the son of Myles D. Taylor Sr., who was wounded in street violence a number of years ago and is in a wheelchair. What role the older Taylor played in his son’s life is unknown, they said.
The 14-year-old, authorities said, was being raised by his mother and a stepfather.
At Jowyn’s funeral, his life was put into focus by many friends and family members, who wore T-shirts with “R.I.P. Jowyn” written alongside his picture.
They described him as a young man who did his best to avoid the dangers of street life.
“We’ve been friends for over five, six years,” said a visibly upset Terrell Jennings of Jowyn, explaining that they had become friends on the football field.
Inside the church, mourners watched a slide show that was far from the violence that had claimed him.
There were images of the victim standing beside a Christmas tree, another of a younger Jowyn smiling and holding a football, and yet another of him older and with a young lady.
The images of happier times moved across an oversized projection screen and were repeated as the Rev. Darius G. Pridgen launched into the memorial service, urging those gathered to remember the good things Jowyn did for them, the jokes he told them and the smiles he brought to their faces.
And Pridgen, not about to let his audience of young people leave without a challenge, exhorted them to rise above society’s expectations for poor black youths.
“Every young man up here, if 10 of you get together, the statistics say two of you will graduate,” Pridgen said. “But today ... you can turn that statistic around.”
Jowyn’s mother said he was scheduled to begin this fall at Bennett High School.
In his eulogy, Horace Harper, one of Jowyn’s uncles, remembered his nephew’s ceaseless appetite at family parties and called him a “respectable young man.”
“This wasn’t a man that was selling drugs,” Harper said. “This wasn’t a man who was hanging out on the corner robbin’ folks.”
Jowyn’s aunt, Viola Atkinson, echoed Harper in describing Jowyn as a “good kid.”
She said he was “always sweet, mild-mannered, talked low, always had a smile on his face.” She saw him just before he died when she went to visit his grandmother. Jowyn was helping take care of her after she got out of the hospital for back surgery.
“To see this crime here, once again, young people in our community are just dying senseless,” Atkinson said. “We don’t understand why. I think there’s something that has to be done.”
The funeral also carried a message of forgiveness.
Atkinson, in recalling Pridgen’s words, said that not only is her nephew gone, but the family of the 14-year-old has now lost him. She expressed her condolences to Taylor’s relatives.