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'His light shined' Family says teen killed in shooting had giving heart, plans for college and the future

James Johnson III, 17, was shot and killed in a home in Irvington
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Posted at 3:59 PM, Feb 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-07 10:27:01-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The family of a teenager who was shot and killed Saturday night in Indianapolis is speaking publicly about the impact their loved one created before his death and was going to create in his future.

James Johnson III, 17, died in a local hospital after being shot in the 5600 block of Lowell Avenue in the Irvington neighborhood on the east side.

Johnson was a student at Purdue Polytechnic Englewood and an entrepreneur, as WRTV discovered in 2021.

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Known locally as 317 Fruit Man, Johnson took it upon himself as a young man to bring produce to his area of the city and provide different kinds for his neighbors.

Johnson was providing healthy food options to food desert areas in the city, where residents weren't necessarily exposed to healthier foods like fruit.

Johnson's mother, La'toya Martin, describes his bright personality to WRTV.

"He's a very charismatic, bubbly young man," Martin said. "He's a servant leader, always willing to help, he always has a smile on his face, he's always calm, cool and collected."

Johnson has two younger sisters, Jayla and Jasmine.

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"For one thing making an impact in your community starts with making an impact at home and he was a great big brother," Martin said.

His mother says that he went on to have an impact on the community with 317 Fruit Man, but the significance of giving back was not just about what he was doing, but how he did it.

"He did it with a smile, he did it where his light shined through him. So people wanted him to come back, they wanted to buy from him. He made people feel welcomed." Martin said.

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Not only was Johnson an advocate for the community, but he was also a basketball player, and an entrepreneur all while only being a junior in high school.

His mother says he and his friends had started a clothing line called "Wired" that Johnson was very passionate about.

"We had a couple college tours planned, but the main thing 'he' wanted to do was take his clothing brand "Wired" and take it to the next level and build on that."

His mother found out her 17-year-old son passed through a phone call. She says the nature of her son's calm spirit helped her through those moments.

"The one thing that came into my mind was my son has a calmness, when my son receives certain information, he stays calm, he stays cool, he stays collected and he'll sit back and think before he acts," Martin said. "And in that moment, that's exactly what I was going to do because my son is going to live on through me."

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His mother says that Johnson's spirit not only came from his parent's, but from his faith in God, which also inspired him to give back to his community. She say's this faith and his spirit will live on.

"We know we're going to be in pain right now, we know we're going to go through it, but nonetheless we're going to be strong because that's who we are and that's who he is," Martin said.

Johnson was a victim of the gun violence that has been prevalent in the Indianapolis community, especially in younger generations.

His mother says that the next step is advocating and that anything that can be done to stop gun violence in the community must be done.

Martin shares a message to those that choose to pick up a gun.

"Anything you do behind that trigger you could be doing to yourself" Martin said. "Every time you pull that trigger, and you take another life, you in essence take yours. whether its mentally, whether you get locked up — you take your own life. "

Mother of James Johnson III shares heartfelt message about gun violence

"When you do it, it takes a second to pull that trigger. A second versus someone's full life. A second versus your full life. We are human, we bleed. That piece of metal is steel— the two don't compare.

Johnson's family as well as Purdue Polytechnic High School staff members and community leaders will meet this afternoon to honor James Johnson III.

Purdue Polytechnic High School has a memorial fund set up for James' family.

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