By Patrick Forrest
A family begs for answers after an ambush on the streets of Gary leaves a 12-year-old Chicago boy dead. Demetrius Townsel, Jr. was pronounced dead Saturday night at a Gary hospital according to the Lake County Coroner’s Office. The police department is looking for the killer, but the Brown family has concerns there as well.
“Please turn yourself in. I go home empty. I miss his laugh. I miss him. He just wanted to be a basketball player,” Katherine Brown, the boy’s mother said through tears. “Why did they take my baby?”
Demetrius was described as a fun-loving boy, who loved video games, telling jokes and basketball, especially his favorite player Stephen Curry.
“That boy would be on that game until 5 o’clock in the morning,” Demetrius’ father, Demetrius Sr. said. “Him and his brother, it didn’t matter who won because the winner always cheated.”
Both Demetrius and his twin brother, Darius, are students at R.J. Daley Elementary Academy in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood, where Demetrius was described as a top-notch student.
“It’s unfortunate that something like this would happen to a 12-year-old child,” said Lenearl Lightfoot, Demetrius’ stepfather. “I was a victim of gun violence myself. The first time I got shot I was 12 years old, and I never got justice. Makes me more determined to find out who did this to him.”
The boys were visiting family in Gary when a group of nearly five of them got into the car to make a trip to the gas station for milk. A man unknown to the family appeared from the wooded areas alongside the road and began to fire shots into the car. Demetrius was the only person hit.
Demetrius shares a unique bond with his twin, Darius, and according to Chicago anti-violence activist Andrew Holmes, Darius tried to save Demetrius’ life by putting pressure on the gunshot wound.
“Now, his brother is going to have to live with that for the rest of his life,” Demetrius Sr. said. “Trying to save his brother and not being able to, can you imagine?”
With the sudden death, the child’s family has launched a GoFundMe page hoping to raise money for a proper burial. A goal has been set at $8,000, with slightly more than 150 donations being received to this point.
The family is now asking for the help of the public to make sure that the person or people who did this are brought to justice.
“We’re not going to stop until an arrest has been made,” Holmes said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “You went to sleep, but stopped this child from living. You woke up, but stopped this child from living.”
The Gary Police Department has asked anyone with information about Townsel’s killing to call the Lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-3855 or the Crime Tip Line at 866-CRIME-GP.
The family is offering a $2,000 reward, which will be matched by Early Walker owner of Walker and McFarland Funeral Services, which is handling the funeral services for the family.
“There was no way I could stand idle without offering this family some form of relief,” stated Walker. “This murder has shaken both Northwest Indiana and Chicago to the core.”
Holmes has also set up a 24-hour call center at 1-800-UTELLUS for anyone who would rather give information anonymously and would be uncomfortable working with police.
Gary Police Cmdr. Jack Hamady stated the shooter, who was on foot, was described as a Black male with a thin build, dreadlocks and all black clothing.
Hamady stated that there are no current updates, and that updates would be made available as the investigation continues.
“This family really just wants to have some type of justice,” Holmes said. “We need all hands-on-deck to make sure we get them closure.”
As a family’s pain becomes clear, they continue to search for the answer to only one question that was asked repeatedly during a media availability.
“Why did you take this child’s life? You went to sleep, but you stopped this child from living,” Holmes said. “She (Demetrius’ mother) was looking to go home with her son (from the hospital), but instead was given only a pair of shoes and some clothes.”
And through the pain that they have expressed, the family has a clear eye toward the goal of justice for the young life that has been taken from them.
“I hope they put whoever did this in jail forever,” Demetrius Sr. said. “If my boy can’t be here to enjoy life, they shouldn’t either. I want whoever did this to be brought in and have they [sic] freedom taken away. They shouldn’t be out here able to be free.”