Doyel: Jack Shockley's family, local sports stars hope to prevent more senseless gun violence

INDIANAPOLIS – More than three years after that call from the coroner, Jack Shockley can still make his parents laugh. The way he dressed, for example. They remember the sweatpants and flannel shirts in the winter, purple crocs on his feet.

“And crazy socks,” his mom, Cheryl Shockley, says with a chuckle. “He loved to be kind of goofy.”

They remember the way he loved sports, even if sports didn’t exactly love him back. He played tennis at Bishop Chatard – class of 2014 – but the most telling video of Jack Shockley, athlete, is on his father’s phone. Try to picture this:

Jack’s at a party, music in the background. There’s an indoor putting contest. The putting surface is a long strip of artificial turf, Jack at one end, the hole at the other. Jack lines up, draws back his putter, swings it toward the ball … and snags his putter on the edge of the artificial turf – which folds over the ball. It’s still at Jack’s feet, hidden under the folded turf.

“He tried everything,” Steve says, another chuckle. “He was done with most sports before high school.”

Says Cheryl: “He was more of a reader.”

Bishop Chatard's Jack Shockley
Bishop Chatard's Jack Shockley

Yes, he did like to read.

Everything was hard in August 2020 after the phone rang – once, then a second time – and a family was shattered. Jack Shockley had been shot outside a McDonald’s on the eastside. As he did each morning before work, he’d been sitting in his car, eating his sausage-and-cheese McMuffin, when a stranger walked up to his open window and shot him dead. No words were exchanged. Another senseless killing in a world that makes no sense. The shooter has been sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Everything was hard after that, but cleaning out Jack’s apartment was devastating. On his nightstand was what he’d been reading: The Imitation of Christ, a 15th century book of devotionals. The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as Opus Dei, a set of Catholic prayers. The Bible.

Above those books, under only his rosary beads, was what he’d been reading most recently: a dog-eared copy of Dante’s Inferno.

“I open it,” Cheryl says, “and he’s on the seventh circle of hell, about the demons and murders. He was reading about the demons that killed him.”

Now she’s weeping silently. Yeah, Jack Shockley can still make his parents cry.

Bishop Chatard's Jack Shockley
Bishop Chatard's Jack Shockley

What happened?’

Nick Schnell remembers the morning of Aug. 12, 2020.

“Like it was yesterday,” he says.

Schnell didn’t know Jack Shockley well, but his older brother Aaron Schnell had roomed with Jack at IU. They were best friends, Jack and Aaron. Nick was five years younger, hanging out with the older kids when he could, when he wasn’t playing baseball. Nick Schnell, a power-hitting center fielder, was the state player of the year at Roncalli in 2018, when the Tampa Bay Rays drafted him in the first round.

Schnell was home that summer, because Covid had canceled the 2020 minor league season. He was at the Powerhouse Athletics baseball facility the morning of Aug. 12, working out with his dad. They’d been there about 30 minutes, with Schnell hitting balls off the tee before moving onto short toss drills. Live batting practice is next, but now his dad is flipping balls for Nick to hit into the netting, one after another, when a phone rings. It’s his wife, Angie. Jay Schnell answers.

Nick sees his dad’s face go flush.

“I can hear my dad asking: ‘What happened?’” Nick says. “He hung up and said, ‘Aaron’s buddy Jack was shot and killed today.’

“My stomach dropped. I told my dad I don’t want to finish hitting. I want to go home.”

'He didn’t pass people by'

Jack’s parents had warned their son about eating at that McDonald’s. It was just one month earlier, July of 2020, and violent crime was rising all over America. It was the Covid effect, and it was happening in Indianapolis, and there’d been shootings near that particular McDonald’s.

Says Steve: “He easily could have driven three blocks to work instead of eating at the danger zone he was in.”

Says Cheryl: “The crime rate had exploded, and I sat him down and told him, basically: ‘Have your head up.’ He said, ‘Mom, they’re desperate people with nothing to lose.’ He had this ability to see everybody. You know how you pass people by? He didn’t pass people by. He saw the person.”

For his 24th and final birthday – April 25, 1996 – Jack had asked his mom for a book about people experiencing homelessness. He wanted those pictures in his home, near his Bible and rosary. He wanted to see those people, because that was Jack. At IU he ate lunch at the student union, where a Benedictine priest made himself available every day, usually going ignored. Jack sat down with him one day, then the next, and the next.

“Jack said, ‘Mom, he came every day and I felt sorry because nobody would talk to him,’” Cheryl says. “The priest fed him St. Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine, just huge theologians, and Jack was searching. He’d come home from work and spend quiet time reading and reflecting and praying. It was almost a monastic life, when he wasn’t with his friends.”

Jack had been accepted into the Peace Corps after graduating from IU, to be posted in Namibia in sub-Saharan southern Africa, but Cheryl’s multiple sclerosis flared up so Jack put it off to move home and help. Then Covid hit, postponing his Peace Corps assignment again. Jack still planned to go, because that was Jack.

“He’d say things like, ‘How come I was born into this loving family, have this great schooling?’ And he looked around and saw what people did not have,” Cheryl says. “He saw the poverty, and it ate at him.”

Jack was on his way to the priesthood, his mother believes, but on the morning of Aug. 12, 2020 he was on his way to the McDonald’s at 25th and Emerson. So was a 27-year-old warehouse worker named Sammy Tinnin, a two-time convict from the westside. Tinnin had served two years in prison for a burglary in 2013, and was convicted again in March 2017 and sentenced to six years. Neither offense was armed robbery.

Sammy Tinnin was armed the morning of Aug. 12, 2020.

Teammate of the Year donation

Nick Schnell is still with the Rays, having climbed the ladder from rookie ball to all three rungs of Class A – low, middle and high. This past season with Bowling Green (Ky.) of the high Class A South Atlantic League, the Hot Rods voted him Teammate of the Year. There’s a story there.

Schnell had come into pro baseball five years earlier with a $2.3 million bonus, a five-tool player at Roncalli who’d hit .535 with 15 home runs as a senior and dabbled in pitching, fastball in the lower 90s. But pro baseball is different.

“Having the success I had in high school, you don’t realize how much the failure would affect you,” Schnell says. “Everyone says baseball is humbling? Well, it is. When you’re hitting .500 as a senior and your first couple years you’re hitting .220, .250, whatever it is, it can be pretty frustrating.”

After Schnell was promoted from rookie ball to low Class A in 2019, his third Midwest League game was at Fort Wayne. With family and friends watching, he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. After the last strikeout Schnell slammed his bat on the ground, right there at the plate, and the bat broke. The crowd, the Fort Wayne fans anyway, taunted him:


“Immediately I was pretty embarrassed,” Schnell says. “Our outfield baserunning coordinator (Skeeter Barnes of Indianapolis) was there that day, and he told me, ‘Maybe you’re not cut out for this, if you’re going to act like that.’

“That’s one of the moments I look back on,” he says. “It changed my attitude.”

Four years later Schnell, 23, has added 15 pounds to his 6-2, 200-pound frame, growing into a power-hitting corner outfielder – 16 home runs, 18 doubles and a .440 slugging percentage in 106 games at Bowling Green in 2023 – and a leader in the clubhouse. He doesn’t get angry after bad at-bats anymore. He’s on the top deck of the dugout, cheering for the Hot Rods’ next batter.

When Bowling Green manager Rafael Valenzuela Jr. called earlier this month about his teammate award and an accompanying $2,500 donation to the charity of his choice, Nick Schnell didn’t have to think long. He hung up with his manager, called his brother Aaron, and asked a question:

“Hey, can you get ahold of Jack’s parents?”

'Next of kin is not easily heard'

The phone rang at the Shockleys’ home on Aug. 12, 2020. It was a blocked number, so Steve didn’t answer. Two minutes later it rang again, this time from a number he didn’t recognize. He figured he better answer.

On the other end, a woman was asking if he was John Shockley’s father. Jack’s given name was John David Shockley.

“Yeah,” Steve said. “Who wants to know?”

“Well,” the woman said, “we’re looking for the next of kin of John Shockley.”

That’s how Steve found out.

Next of kin is not easily heard,” he says.

The funeral mass was not easily attended. The family was at the funeral home with Jack, with his casket, and nobody was leaving for the church.

“We just couldn’t face it,” Cheryl says. “Finally I said to the guys, ‘OK, we need some warriors here!’”

That’s where they got the name for Warriors for Peace, the nonprofit they started in early 2021 to honor Jack. They wanted to address violence in the city and honor what Cheryl calls “Jack’s love for the poor,” but didn’t know where to start.

“The issues just seem so large and we didn’t know how,” she says. “It’s overwhelming.”

The Shockleys met with Gov. Holcomb, Mayor Joe Hogsett and their archbishop for ideas. It was Monsignor William Stumpf, who’d baptized Jack more than 20 years earlier at Christ the King, who advised them to “look at it one life at a time.”

Says Cheryl: “He suggested a scholarship for inner-city schools, for kids from the least privileged parishes, and we loved that. Jack was our peacemaker.”

Says Steve: “The idea was to find a peacemaker among eighth-grade students at those schools, and support their education at Catholic high schools.”

Three years later, the Jack Shockley Warriors for Peace foundation has found a mentor and full funding for five kids at three local schools: two at Scecina, two at Roncalli, one at Chatard. It provides $5,000 annually for four years, covering the gap between tuition and Indiana’s voucher program.

The Shockleys aren’t sure where exactly Nick Schnell’s $2,500 gift will go. Perhaps for tuition, or their partnership with Hoosiers for Good – the Name, Image and Likeness collective at IU for student-athletes. Warriors for Peace is aligned with C.J. Gunn, a sophomore guard from Lawrence North who volunteered on Jack’s birthday at the group’s cleanup of Broad Ripple Park, and spoke about the gun violence he’s seen growing up.

Warriors for Peace has a growing relationship with Stop the Violence Indianapolis, a community group combatting gun, gang and domestic violence, and is helping a new group in town – Vagabond Missions – that connects with inner-city kids to break what it calls “the cycle of hopelessness in our community.” Vagabond Missions operates out of a local school, but has identified a fixer-upper building.

“They’re looking for permits,” Steve says of Vagabond Missions. “We’ll finance that.”

Says Cheryl: “We also want to provide meals for them.”

They hope to make a difference one life at a time, perhaps two, as they strive for an alternate universe where someone like Jack Shockley can safely eat a McMuffin in his car – because someone like Sammy Tinnin has found there’s more to this world than the gun in his pocket.

Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter at @GreggDoyelStar or at

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This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Warriors for Peace rally after Chatard's Jack Shockley taken too soon