December 28, 2014

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Call to action resonates at vigil for shooting victim

LORAIN — What started off as a candlelight vigil for 17-year-old shooting victim DeAndre McDowell led to a call for action Monday night.

DeAndre McDowell’s parents, Lakeesha Gamble and Jeremy McDowell, at a vigil for their son Monday night in Lorain. (CT photo by Chelsea Miller.)

DeAndre McDowell’s parents, Lakeesha Gamble and Jeremy McDowell, at a vigil for their son Monday night in Lorain. (CT photo by Chelsea Miller.)

Art McKoy, founder of Black on Black Crime Inc., led a round of chants, asking friends and family of McDowell to call the Lorain Police Department and demand a better investigation of McDowell’s death.

“Who do we want justice for?” he screamed through a megaphone.

“DeAndre!” the crowd yelled in response.

On May 17, McDowell’s body was found in a wooded area on Lexington Avenue — the same area friends and family gathered to pay their respects Monday.

Police have arrested a suspect, Antonio Robles, 20, who has been charged with reckless homicide. They have released few details on the case but said McDowell’s death was accidental. Robles was allegedly playing with a gun when McDowell was shot in the head.

But for McDowell’s parents, Lakeesha Gamble and Jeremy McDowell, that answer isn’t enough.

“We just want justice for DeAndre,” Gamble said.

“We know that other people are involved in this and the bottom line is that,” Jeremy McDowell added.

No one else has been charged in relation to DeAndre’s death, but Detective Buddy Sivert said a deal was made with the prosecutor to catch the person responsible for the shooting.

“We had an individual come forward (and say) that he was responsible for moving the body, and there was a deal,” he said. “We thought the most important thing was figuring out what happened and who was responsible for the shooting.”

Sivert said the person was cooperative with police, and information that was given led to Robles.

“I have not had a single person come forward with any credible information that anything else happened,” he said.

Angel Arroyo, a Lorain activist who serves as a pastor for .com ministries, criticized the police department’s approach to homicide investigations. He said that city officials have been apathetic to the problems facing residents.

“As we lose another child, I’m sad to see no city representatives here, no city councilman, no police officers,” he said. “Enough is enough. We want justice for our city. We want justice for DeAndre, and we want programs so our kids don’t have to be on the streets.”

McKoy, who came from Cleveland as a representative for Black on Black Crimes Inc., an organization working to stop inner-city crime, said residents must take responsibility for bringing “justice” to DeAndre.

“If we want this case really brought to justice and solved … you all call (the police) tomorrow and tell them about the case and tell them you want this back open,” he said.

Sivert said police will investigate any credible reports, but he said there is no indication that McDowell’s death was anything but accidental. He said the case was thoroughly investigated and said family would be given the details once the investigation is wrapped up.

“These are a bunch of kids that screwed up, and if they don’t fulfill the deal with the prosecutor, there could be charges,” he said.

DeAndre McDowell’s grandmother, Debra Simpson, also questioned what happened to her grandson, but she said she was grateful for the support received from the community.

More than 50 people gathered near the woods Monday and lit candles, said a prayer and released red balloons into the sky.

Family described DeAndre McDowell as a “happy-go-lucky kid” and said he liked making people laugh.

“Dre had a beautiful heart. He liked doing things for other people,” Simpson said. “He was a loving child. He didn’t deserve what he got.”

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.