Community members hold prayer vigil for teen shot and killed in South Bend
SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- 15-year-old Donnie Gray Jr. was shot and killed Thursday night at the Prairie Apartments complex in South Bend. Now, a juvenile is charged with criminal acts leading up to the shooting, and is behind bars at the Juvenile Justice Center.
But the community is still reeling from another young life taken too soon.
Some held a prayer vigil outside the county-city building Friday evening.
ABC57 found out Donnie was a former student of the South Bend Community School Corporation but had since moved out of the state.
His mother traveled to South Bend via plane, according to her friend and organizer of the prayer vigil, Minister LaQuita Hughes.
"This particular child, you know, has been in my home. And so, it hit home. It hit home,” Hughes said. “I have a son that's in college who got on the highway right away driving. Other friends, devastated, trying to find out what's going on, thinking that they were going to be able to go to a hospital to comfort their friend. And he wasn't at the hospital."
Hughes, a local minister, said Donnie Gray was a kind-hearted child who loved his family and friends. She says he was a very active teenager.
Sadly, he never even made it to the hospital after a shooting Thursday night. It's unclear what led up to shots being fired but another juvenile has been arrested in connection with the deadly shooting.
Hughes is running for South Bend common council’s at-large seat and organized tonight's vigil to send a message to the community, to come together and end the violence.
“For him to lose his life like this, in such a way. It has impacted not just my home, but it should be impacting the community,” Hughes said. “I shouldn’t be here, standing here with just those that are here, it should be more of us out here.”
But some city officials found the prayer vigil rather controversial.
South Bend City Clerk Dawn Jones distributed a press release for the vigil on behalf of minister LaQuita Hughes. She included Donnie’s name in that release before police had publicly identified the victim of the shooting.
Clerk Jones redacted the boy’s name from the press release, but it appears that was too little, too late for Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski.
“No matter what reasoning or justification, family has NOT been fully notified, nor has this incident been fully pieced together,” Ruszkowski replied to the email.
Then, Bob Palmer, the common council attorney, also replied via email.
“Using the time and resources of the city clerk’s office to promote the activities of a candidate for the common council is, in my opinion, unethical at best, and possibly illegal at worst. By copy of this e-mail. I’m asking the city legal department to initiate an investigation,” Palmer said.
Hughes, who led the vigil, once again is running for the common council at-large seat.
It’s unclear where this investigation will go, but Clerk Jones tells ABC57 she thought distributing press releases on behalf of community members is just part of her job, and she did not do anything wrong.