Keyshawn Gregory’s parents wonder why he died on a Raleigh street corner

At some point after he was mortally wounded in the front seat of a friend’s car, Keyshawn Tyrell Gregory was driven within sight of his home on Pettigrew Street just east of downtown.

But instead of taking him home or to nearby WakeMed for medical help, the driver, who Keyshawn’s parents know only as “Kevin,” drove to the corner of East Jones and North State streets, where Keyshawn died. He was 13.

“That’s one of the things I can’t figure out,” his mother, Lakesha Harris, 34, said Friday. “They said they told Keyshawn to go to the hospital, but Keyshawn didn’t want to go to the hospital.”

Keyshawn, known as “Shawn” among friends and family, was one of three people riding in a car Friday, Aug. 8, when words were exchanged between one of the car’s occupants and people outside a home at 1401 Beauty Ave. Police say someone then fired at the car, hitting Keyshawn about 9:20 p.m.

He would have started eighth grade this fall at Martin Middle School.

Police have charged Malik Armein Jones, 19, with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder. Two other teens – Jamal Christopher Howie, 19, and Jonathan Dejesus Chavez, 18 – were charged with one count each of accessory after the fact of murder for allegedly helping Jones afterward.

Keyshawn’s parents say they have been able to piece together what happened to their son from members of the community and police.

Harris said her son and a 14-year-old friend were at an outdoor basketball court and park on Tarboro Road that evening when they hopped into the car of Kevin, a 19-year-old who was going to buy a bag of pot on nearby Beauty Avenue.

Harris, who lives in Middlesex, said after buying the marijuana, Kevin spotted several people sitting on the front porch of a small house at 1401 Beauty Ave. Harris said Kevin had an earlier altercation with someone on the porch and stopped the car.

“Kevin stepped out of the car and said some words to the guy,” Harris said Friday afternoon. “He got back into the car, and the shooting started.”

Multiple shots erupted from the front porch, hitting Keyshawn but not the others in the car.

Harris said the 14-year-old ran to the park for help. An older man called 911 and, in a voice breaking with despair, begged the dispatcher to hurry up and send an ambulance. He said someone had been shot somewhere else and showed up on East Jones Street in a car.

“How old is he?” the dispatcher asked.

“I don’t know,” the caller answered. “He like 15 or 14.”

The dispatcher was trying to determine what happened when the caller, heartbroken and desperate, said in a sobbing voice, “He’s dead. Just please hurry up.”

Keyshawn died within yards of a revitalized community center and mentoring program that city officials and activists created in recent years to provide more positive outlets for kids who live in the neighborhood.

Keyshawn’s father, Larry Gregory, described Kevin as one of his son’s close friends and also wonders why he did not bring his son home or to the hospital. Gregory, a stocky man with a cigarette dangling from two fingers, sat on the front porch of the red-brick home on Pettigrew Street on Friday and watched Keyshawn’s 2-year-old brother, Larry Gregory Jr., play in the front yard. A white funeral wreath stood near the front door.

Gregory pointed to the intersection of Pettigrew Street and New Bern Avenue, where an ABC store sits on the corner. “They came from that way, straight from where he had been shot,” he said.

Gregory has not spoken with Kevin since the shooting.

“I’m anxious to speak with him,” he said. “I been waiting for him to come by because I really want to know.”

Keyshawn was the second oldest of eight children. Both of his parents said he spent nearly every waking moment this summer playing basketball. His hero was the Washington Wizards guard John Wall, who played at Raleigh’s Word of God Christian Academy before going on to star at the University of Kentucky.

Harris said Wall and Keyshawn are cousins.

“Basketball was his whole world. He always took his basketball everywhere,” she said. “He wanted to be like John Wall. When he played at Kentucky, Keyshawn would always watch the games on TV.”

Harris said the family has not yet spoken with Wall, but she spoke to the NBA star’s mother shortly after Keyshawn was shot.

Gregory said Keyshawn was looking forward to trying out for the point guard position with the Martin Middle School basketball team this year.

“Anytime he went out, he had his basketball. He was a beast,” Gregory said, smiling while remembering his son loping up and down the basketball court. “He was tall for his age. To me, he was more like Kevin Durant.”

Friends and family members created a shrine at the spot where Keyshawn died. On Friday, an array of tall, glass-encased candles stood on the curb in front of small, bulky wooden cross. Someone had fashioned a crown that sat atop the cross, and at the foot was a silver plaque with the words of the 23rd Psalm.

In the middle of the memorial was a Spalding basketball and a pair of red, white and blue Nike basketball shoes.

“He loved basketball,” his father said.

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @tmcdona75589225

Funeral information

A visitation service for Keyshawn Tyrell Gregory will be held Sunday from 2 until 8 p.m. at the Carlton Gray Funeral Home, 2810 Kidd Road in Raleigh.

Funeral services will be held Monday at 1 p.m. at Poplar Springs Christian Church, 6115 Old Stage Road in Raleigh.

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