INDIANAPOLIS — J’mel Dowdell’s family wants you to know he was more than a statistic.
They want him to be remembered as a loving father of three children, a successful businessman, and a positive influence who was endlessly dedicated to the city he called home.
“I never met anybody like him,” said a cousin of Dowdell who asked not to be named. “He could do whatever. He did it all.”
Dowdell’s loved ones say he was a man of countless talents which he used to help those around him and improve his community.
Now, he will never share those talents with anyone ever again.
Dowdell, or “Melly” as some knew him, was killed unexpectedly at his home late last month, his family said.
Indianapolis police found Dowdell, 43, wounded while responding to a shooting March 30 in the 9400 block of Timber View Drive, in the Castleton area.
He was later transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Dowdell’s family said he had just gotten engaged and moved shortly before he was gunned down.
“We are hurt,” said Dowdell’s cousin. “Why is nobody in custody?”
In addition to countless friends and family members, Dowdell left behind two teenage sons and a 1-year-old daughter.
“He was a very good father. He always encouraged them to go to school,” said Luz Reyes, who shares a son with Dowdell. “He didn’t deserve this.”
Reyes said she and Dowdell’s son was so traumatized by his father’s death that he hasn’t been able to go to school, has been physically ill, and cannot sleep.
“That breaks my heart. As a mother, I wish I could take that pain away from him. I don’t know what to do,” Reyes said.
Aside from the personal impact Dowdell’s death has had on his loved ones, his family is also distraught over what his passing means for their community.
Dowdell was an established entrepreneur who dabbled in countless fields. His talents included but weren’t limited to marketing, house renovating, hair styling, and tattoo art. He was perhaps best known for The Button Nose Kidz, a series of children’s books and cartoons.
James Dishroom, a friend of Dowdell, said they first met as college roommates in the early 2000s.
“The biggest thing is just, it’s a huge loss to our community,” Dishroom said.
Dowdell grew up on 42nd Street and Post Road on Indianapolis’ northeast side and was at one point homeless, according to Dishroom.
“He came from nothing,” said Dishroom. “To see somebody from that area end up going to college … into having successful businesses — you know, multiple properties … He was the inspiration for where he comes from — and not only for where he comes from but the city as a whole.”
Setting an example
The Button Nose Kidz project focuses on five siblings living in a middle-income home. It follows the characters on their struggles with shyness, peer pressure and not fitting in. Those who knew Dowdell say he ran practically every aspect of the project, from production, to costumes and scripts.
The series' goal, according to its Facebook page, is "to have Button Nose Kidz looked at as heroes and have a great impact on decision making, learning skills, social skills and more."
This was a fundamental part of Dowdell as a person, family and friends say.
"He was telling me, 'This is what I'm put here to do, and no matter what else I'm doing — whether it's rehabbing houses or, you know, whatever the case may be, I'll always be doing this. I'll always advance this cause.' Because he wanted the kids of Indianapolis to not grow up like he did and have a better future and to give them knowledge and show them a different way."
On top of that, Dowdell was a role model for anyone who had a troubled upbringing and living proof that it's possible to overcome adversity, Dishroom said.
"I just remember his excitement was the biggest thing. Like, the look on his face — his eyes lit up; he was just so excited that he had come up with this idea that was going to impact kids that were in his shoes at one time," Dishroom said.
Dishroom also recalled Dowdell's willingness to help anyone who asked for it; especially entrepreneurs who were just getting their start.
"He was one of a kind. There will never be another J'mel," said Dishroom, who in involved in business ventures of his own. "I do a lot. But he was the only person that I've ever met, or one of the few people I've ever met in my life, that I felt dreamed as big as I did. He was a big dreamer, man. He had enormous goals that people — especially in this market. Especially in Indianapolis. Like, they really couldn't even comprehend it," Dishroom said.
“It’s just a huge loss to everybody, man,” he said.
Dowdell's family is convinced whoever killed him had a personal connection with him.
They say those responsible must be held accountable for the irreparable damage they've done.
"You cannot just do that," Dowdell's cousin said. "You cannot just go around killing people."
IMPD Lt. Shane Foley said there have been no updates to the case as of Tuesday.
No one is in custody in connection with Dowdell's killing, Foley said.
Police have asked anyone with information on Dowdell's killing to contact Detective Jeremy Ingram at 317-327-3475 or Jeremy.Ingram@indy.gov. Tips can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana by calling 317-262-8477.