VENICE, Ill. — Jaylon McKenzie, a 14-year-old who was a standout football star in East St. Louis, Illinois, was killed late Saturday night at a post-prom house party.
Jaylon’s mom, Sukeena Gunner, told 5 On Your Side’s Jenna Barnes that her son was at a party in Venice, Illinois, when a fight broke out. He walked outside to leave the party and avoid the fight when a stray bullet hit him, she said.
Jaylon was in eighth grade.
Gunner said her son was like a magnet.
"He didn't say much, but he just drew people to him with his smile, with his personality,” she said.
"My baby had just such a promising future, and for his life to just end in just a senseless killing with someone else that had no regard for life. Just prayer -- prayer is all I can really ask for right now,” Gunner said.
At 11:40 p.m., Illinois State Police said officers responded to a report of a disturbance and shooting in the 600 block of 3rd Street in Venice. Officers arrived to find two teenagers had been shot. They immediately started trying to save their lives before being rushed to local hospitals.
Jaylon died from his injuries shortly after arriving at the hospital. The other victim, a 15-year-old girl, remains in critical condition. Police did not identify the girl.
ISP said investigators are not aware of any other victims from the shooting at this time. ISP is handling the investigation. No other information is being released at this time.
East St. Louis School District 189 sent out a news release Saturday morning stating a 'few' students were shot at the party Saturday night. School officials didn't confirm an exact number of students injured and said 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,' the school district stated in a news released sent Sunday morning.
Crisis teams will be available for students at the schools over the next several days.
Even though he wasn’t in high school yet, Jaylon received national attention for his skills on the football field. Just last November, Sports Illustrated featured him in an article titled, ‘Six teens who will rule the future in sports.’
In the article, Jaylon told SI he had dreams of playing in the NFL and hoped to follow in the footsteps of Adoree' Jackson—who played for the Titans, was a star at USC and also a native of Belleville.
Jackson tweeted after reading the news of Jaylon's death.
'You Was Next Up and taken too soon! We have to do better.. Rest Easy,' he wrote on Twitter.
Jaylon was on his way to being a star at a major university. He already received scholarship offers from Mizzou and Illinois.
"If you were to be with him, you wouldn’t know. You wouldn't know that Sports Illustrated was covering him, you wouldn't know that he had offers from Illinois and Missouri. Because that's just the smiling kid he was, the jokester, the prankster,” his coach Al Lewis said.
For years, Lewis coached Jaylon in basketball, where he also shined.
"You rarely hear about someone that great in both sports,” Lewis said.
But Coach Lewis said Jaylon stood out even more when he wasn't playing.
"Outside of football, outside of basketball, he was just a great kid,” he said.
Anyone who witnessed the shooting or has any knowledge of the shooting is asked to contact the ISP Investigations Case Agent Scott Wobbe at 618-381-1467. Callers can remain anonymous.
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