Cortoria Gray grew up with her cousin, Danzele Jermaine Johnson.
“Our whole childhood was together,” Gray said Thursday afternoon. She remembered Johnson as being very athletic and having a lot of friends.
“He was very funny. He always wanted to make people laugh,” Gray said. “I’ve never seen him sad. He’s always happy.”
Gray will never see her cousin alive again.
Johnson, 21, Goshen, was killed Wednesday during a shooting in Elkhart, according to police, and two youths have been arrested on murder charges.
Elkhart police Sgt. Steve Price said investigators believe Johnson was an intruder at the home.
Around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Elkhart police responded to a call of a burglary in progress at 1919 Frances Ave. The resident who called emergency dispatchers said people had forced their way into his residence and shots were fired.
Police said officers found two people — not residents of the home — who had suffered gunshot wounds. One was Johnson. Another was a juvenile male who was treated for a non-life-threatening injury at Elkhart General Hospital. He was released from the hospital and later arrested at the Elkhart Police Department.
The homeowner told police that two people had fled the residence on foot. Police said that after a short foot chase, officers took one of them into custody in the 1800 block of Frances Avenue. The other suspect is still being sought.
The two juveniles in custody in this case are 16-year-olds. They’ve been arrested on preliminary charges of murder.
Elkhart police did not release the names of the juveniles. However, Elkhart County jail records indicated Jose Quiroz, 16, and Blake Ray Layman, 16, were arrested Wednesday on preliminary murder charges. Records show Quiroz was arrested at 1919 Frances Ave. and Layman was arrested at the Elkhart Police Department.
Why the youths face murder charges was not explained by police.
Losing a friend
Johnson was a 2009 graduate of NorthWood High School. He played football and ran track, and NorthWood Athletic Director Norm Sellers worked with him a lot.
“While (Johnson) was a student here, he was a kid that got along with everybody,” Sellers said. “He had an infectious personality, and befriended a lot of people.
“He was very personable, had a lot of friends, and was very close with a lot of his classmates. His classmates are definitely hurting today.
In Sellers’ view, Johnson was a good person who made a bad choice.
“He’s going to be missed,” Sellers said.
A good neighbor
Richard Jacquez, lives at 1921 Frances Ave., next door to the home of the shooting. Jacquez said he saw police officers on his front porch with guns, but did not know what happened until a reporter informed him.
Jacquez said he was surprised by the incident, in which his neighbor reportedly shot at intruders.
Was he surprised?
“...I’ve known him for years and he’s never bothered anybody,” he said of his neighbor. “He’s always been a good guy. In the wintertime he comes over and snowplows my driveway and stuff and once in a while he helps us out here and we do the same for him.”
Jacquez said that if his neighbor was defending his home, he feels the shooting was justified.
“I would have done the same thing,” he said.
The day after her cousin’s death, Gray remembered Johnson as someone who was very well-mannered and never disrespectful. She also said he got involved with the wrong people.
“It’s not what we expected, especially for him,” Gray said. Everybody expected him to go farther, and do a lot more.
“Anybody who knew him loved him. It’s really hard on a lot of people.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.