8th Grade Football Phenom Shot and Killed at Illinois Party

Jaylon McKenzie, 14, pictured above

Jaylon McKenzie, 14, pictured above

Josh Hobbs

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Last Saturday, 14-year-old, Jaylon McKenzie, was shot and killed leaving a local house party in Illinois. Around 11:40 p.m. on Saturday Night, Illinois state police responded to calls about a disturbance at a large house party in Venice, Illinois. Calls reportedly started coming in around 11:20, with several reporting they heard shots fired at the party. Local authorities arrived at the scene where Jaylon and a 15-year-old girl had been shot. They were both rushed to a hospital, where shortly after, Jaylon was pronounced dead. The girl is still in critical condition.

Jaylon was very well known in his community in Belleville, Illinois for his talent on the football field. He had been featured in the Future Issue of Sports Illustrated back in November 2018 along with five other teen sports stars. According to his Jaylon’s mother, Sukeena Gunner, he dreamt going up was to be become a pro star in California, playing for either the Los Angeles Rams or Chargers. Even though Jaylen was still in middle school, he had already received college offers from the University of Missouri and the University of Illinois.

East St. Louis School District 189, where Jaylon was a student, confirmed that some of its students were shot at the party Saturday night.

“School District 189 has learned that a few of our students were shot at a house party in Venice, IL at some point Saturday night,” a statement from the district read. “Few details are clear at this point. We do know that our youth, families and school staff have dealt with a number of tragedies and incidents of violence this year. We request space and time for them to appropriately grieve and come to terms with this latest impact of violence.”

Over the last week, numerous celebrities and political figures have given their condolences to Jaylon and his family. Of the notables are Illinois Rep. LaToya Greenwood posted a tribute on Facebook about Jaylon.

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. #JaylonMcKenzie”

It was also reported last Thursday that star NFL RB, Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys, would be paying all the funeral expenses for Jaylon and his family. For Elliot, this story hits close to home as he was born in Alton, Illinois, and is a St.Louis area native, very close to where Jaylon grew up and was killed.

According to Gunner, McKenzie was a big fan of Elliott’s, who viewed him as an illustration of how he, too, wanted to make an impact on the football field.

“When Ezekiel was playing, he would sit in front of the TV. His eyes were glued to the TV, watching him,” Gunner told reporters. ”Just for him to reach out to me and help me in this difficult time leaves me speechless.”

When asked specifically about her reaction learning that Elliot would be paying for Jaylon’s funeral, she was beyond content and grateful.

“It’s so generous,” Gunner said, “I remember Jaylon watching [Elliott] cross that [NFL Draft] stage and thinking, ‘I can do this,’ so it means a lot.”