INDIANAPOLIS — Strips of caution tape are all that was left Tuesday morning at Dubarry Park on Indy’s east side after two teens were shot and killed at the park hours earlier.
“You should be able to come to the park in your neighborhood. You should be able to come to the park in your neighborhood at 14 or 15 and not think someone is going to murder you,” said Ron Gee, founder of local anti-violence nonprofit group Cease Fire Indy.
IMPD responded to a call for a person lying on the ground at the park around 9:30 Monday night. When they arrived, they found two teens dead from gunshot wounds – 14-year-old Da’Vonta White and 15-year-old Isaiah Jackson.
On Tuesday, family and friends of Da’Vonta came back to the park, overcome with grief.
“This is the grass where my son was, and his blood was,” Chiquanna White said while clutching onto blades of grass from where her son was found dead.
Da'Vonta was the third oldest of her seven children.
Family members described Da’Vonta as a middle schooler who loved gaming, did well in school and stayed out of trouble.
“These killings are getting younger by the minute. He wasn’t a bad child,” said Lashanna Thompson, Da’Vonta’s cousin.
Both were students of the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township. Chiquanna White said Isaiah was Da’Vonta’s friend.
The MSD of Warren Township released the following statement after the boys' deaths.
We are aware of the incident which occurred last night involving two of our students. We extend our condolences to the families of these two young men. The district is prepared to provide counseling and grief support to our staff and students impacted by this tragic incident. All other inquiries concerning this situation should be directed to the appropriate authorities.
“I don’t know. I don’t know where I go from here,” Chiquanna White said. “If anyone knows anything, say something. Speak up.”
White said she is unsure why the boys went to the park but said a family friend dropped them off. Da’Vonta’s sister, she said, was in the car and heard the gunshots.
“We need the community help. We need help from anybody, anybody. Anybody, because this is getting ridiculous,” Thompson said.
Family friend Dorothy Brady challenged the city’s leaders.
“To the mayor and the police chief, I need y'all to get on your job. ASAP. You have got to do something. Look at this mother. She is lost. She is grieving,” Brady said. “You guys have got to do a better job. We are losing our children, our young men to gunfight violence. It is ridiculous. And this family right here, you will not close the book.”
IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey said the community’s cooperation is crucial to bringing an end to the rash in gun violence, and also bringing justice to families of homicide victims.
“It’s going to take an effort on both the community and our part to say I've had enough. And if two young boys in a park being killed isn't enough for you to say I've had enough, then I don't know what it is. I don't know what's going to move that moral compass in you to come forward and do the right thing. These boys did not deserve to die in that park. They didn’t and somebody needs to be held accountable,” Bailey said.
Bailey notes one of Metro Police’s “best detectives” is working the case.
“He's looking for answers. He wants to know why. And we want to know why they were there. Why? Who were there meeting what happened? What circumstances led to this? And the big message to that is — if you know something, you have to come forward. Two young people are dead who shouldn't be today and if you know something, and you don't come forward with it, you are complicit. You are complicit in these two boys’ death and that's unacceptable and won't accept in this community,” Bailey said.
According to the WRTV homicide database, four people younger than 18 years old have been killed from gun violence this year in Indianapolis.
In all of 2021, 12 children were killed.
In 2020, a total of 14 children died from gun violence.
"We have a serious gun problem in this country. There is too easy of an access to a weapon in our community and people without the moral compass who won't hesitate to pull the trigger. And as gun owners, we need to be responsible to make sure our guns are safe, that they don't get in the wrong hands, that they aren't sold to kids, they aren't able to get a hold of them, so these bad things happen," said Bailey.
"Kids' brains are not fully developed at 14 and 15 years old. They don't always comprehend and rationalize all the consequences of their actions and so putting a gun in a kid's hand is a dangerous combination. Those bad decisions are going to happen. So we as a community have to have to say, enough's enough. And if this isn't that, I don't know what it is."
The message from Da’Vonta’s family, friends and IMPD is all the same — if someone knows something, come forward.
“They [the White and Jackson families] need to know that I grieve with them and I’m sorry that this happened and we will do everything that we can, everything that we can do within the law to make sure that those that did this or the person or person’s that did this is accountable,” Bailey said.
Through tears, White said, “If you know something, say something, please, please I want justice for my son.”
A balloon release will be held for Da'Vonta at 3 p.m. Saturday at Dubarry Park.
Da'Vonta's sister, Areyuanna Drane, has organized a fundraiser through GoFundMe to help with funeral expenses.
"Our family never expected this tragedy to happen," she wrote. "We are still in disbelief however we want to lay our son, brother, cousin and school mate to rest with respect, dignity and honor."
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Gary Smith at the IMPD Homicide Office at 317-327-3475 or Gary.Smith@indy.gov.
People can also call Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana anonymously at 317-262-8477.