Jaylon McKenzie

Kaya Squirewell

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The eighth-grade football star from Belleville, Illinois, Jaylon McKenzie, had already accomplished many things as a 14 year old. He received many college offers, including the University of Missouri and University of Illinois. In November of 2018, he was featured in the Future Issue Of Sports Illustrated. Jaylon had big dreams and was making plans of going to the NFL. He wanted to become a pro football star in California, playing for the Los Angeles Rams, until those plans were shattered when the young boy was shot to death at a party in Venice.

Him and his family usually traveled every weekend for Jaylon’s football activities. Since Jaylon was always playing sports, including basketball and track, he usually did not have any free time, especially attending parties. Once sports began to slow down, Jaylon had more free time to be a kid and have fun with his friends. Jaylon was out with his friends Saturday night. “They stopped by the party, not with any intentions to staying long,” said his mother, Sukeena Gunner. They were there to pick up something from a friend. On Saturday night near the Illinois-Missouri border, a report of disturbance was made to the Illinois State Police Department around midnight when shots were fired at a party. Jaylon had been at that party when a fight broke out.

Around midnight, his mother received a call from Jaylon’s brother with the devastating news. Gunner was told that her son had been shot and killed at the party.  He walked outside to leave the party, and was stricken by a bullet. He and a 15-year-old girl were both taken to a hospital, where Jaylon died shortly after the shooting. The girl survived, but is not in the best condition. Jaylon’s school, East St. Louis School District 189, confirmed that some of the students that attend there were shot as well at the same party Saturday night.

“I just started screaming,” she said. “I just prayed and asked the Lord not to take my baby.” Gunner says that herself and her family are having a hard time coping with Jaylon’s death. “It’s very hard,” she said. Jaylon McKenzie’s death had gone viral. Celebrities turned to social media by tweeting their prayers out to him and his family. Former NFL wide receiver, Earl Bennett, tweeted out to the family saying,  “My heart and prayers goes out to Jaylon McKenzie family and friends. Matthew 5:4,” he wrote. The scripture he cited reads: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” for something to eat like he always does.”

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"We're always on the prowl."
Jaylon McKenzie