On the brink of attending high school, promising 13-year-old football recruit Jaylon McKenzie was shot and killed late Saturday night.
McKenzie, who starred at Central Junior High in Belleville, Illinois, had previously been highlighted by Sports Illustrated as one of "Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future in Sports." A running back in the 2023 class, he already received offers from nearby Illinois and Missouri.
McKenzie’s mother, Sukeena Gunner, confirmed her son’s death to KSDK5 and said that he left a party following his eighth-grade dance in Venice, Illinois, when a fight broke out and he was hit by a stray bullet.
Gunner said that McKenzie was taken to Gateway Hospital in Granite City, Illinois, where more than 75 friends joined their family. McKenzie was pronounced dead at midnight.
Illinois State Police is expected to release more information soon, and East St. Louis School District 189 made a news release on Sunday morning:
17 people shot in St. Louis yesterday. Including the devastating loss of one of our brightest young future starts in this city. This city has no value for life. This city eats their young. R.I.P. Young Bull pic.twitter.com/9UjU8A0Men
— Coach Reed (@CoachReed314) May 5, 2019
“School District 189 has learned that a few of our students were shot at a house party in Venice, Illinois, at some point Saturday night. Few details are clear at this point. We do know that our youth, families and school staff have dealt with a number of tragedies and incidents of violence this year. We request space and time for them to appropriately grieve and come to terms with this latest impact of violence.
“Crisis teams will be present at the schools in the upcoming days to provide counseling and support to students and staff during this difficult time. We send our prayers to the families impacted by this violence and hope for healing for the victims.”
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department reported that 17 people were shot in a 24-hour period over the weekend with two fatalities. (Belleville is a suburb of St. Louis near the border of Missouri.)
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