VENICE, Ill. ( -- A 14-year-old rising football star in Belleville, Illinois, was killed in a shooting late Saturday night.

Jaylon McKenzie and a 15-year-old girl had been struck by stray gunfire after leaving a party at a home on 3rd Street in Venice, Illinois, police said.

"He's supposed to bury me, I'm not supposed to bury him," Mckenzie's father Otis Gunner said. 

McKenzie’s mother, Sukeena Gunner, said McKenzie had walked out of the party to avoid a fight at the party when he was killed. His father describes the moment he learned his son was shot.

"I can’t explain it," Otis Gunner said. "It’s a call you never thought you would get, never thought it would happen to you."

Police said McKenzie and the girl were rushed to nearby hospitals where McKenzie died from his injuries. The girl is in stable condition. No other injuries have been reported.

Jaylon McKenzie

14-year-old Jaylon McKenzie was shot and killed after leaving a party in Venice, Illinois.

McKenzie was an 8th grader at Mason-Clark Middle School. Although he wasn’t in high school yet, his mother told News 4 he had received attention from colleges for his skills on the football field. McKenzie had already received scholarship offers from Mizzou and Illinois. He was set to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing football for East St. Louis High School in the fall.

"Since he was a baby that’s what he wanted to do," Otis Gunner said. "He didn’t get the chance to put on that blue and orange jersey but that’s what he wanted to do."

McKenzie’s parents said he was shy and reserved but came alive while playing sports. His basketball coach, Al Lewis said he was equally humble as he was talented.

"His talent was unparalleled," Lewis said. "If you didn’t see him on the field, court or track you wouldn’t know he was a super star."

McKenzie was also recently featured in Sports Illustrated magazine as one of the "Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future in Sports." 

Sukeena Gunner said her son was taken to Gateway Hospital in Granite City, Illinois, after he was shot. She also said he was joined at the hospital by more than 75 of his friends. She said her son was dead at midnight.

The East St. Louis School District 189 expressed its support of students and faculty impacted by the shooting, offering crisis teams and counseling on its campuses. It also offered thoughts and prayers to McKenzie's family. 

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family's personal expenses and to help with memorial.

His memorial is set for Saturday, May 18 at 12 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Masonic Bodies.

News 4 reached out to the Illinois State Police about McKenzie's death. They have not responded yet.

The school district's full statement can be read here: 

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. 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.

Crisis teams will be present at the schools in the upcoming days to provide counseling and support to students and staff during this difficult time. We send our prayers to the families impacted by this violence and hope for healing for the victims.

Anyone who witnessed the shooting or has any knowledge of the shooting is asked to contact the ISP Investigations Case Agent Scott Wobbe at 618-381-1467.

Callers can also remain anonymous.


Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All Rights Reserved

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