To many of his classmates at Dunbar Promise Academy on 12th Street near Montgomery Avenue, Duval DeShields was known as a kind, considerate student.
Despite his hardships—friends knew DeShields’ mother died in 2013 and sister died in 2014—he was an active and engaged kid until his death last week, just days after he turned 14.
Along with dancing with Jazzy’s Entertainment, he played baseball and helped as a crossing guard for Dunbar, said Syreeta Miller, 36, who lives in a Norris Homes unit on Warnock Street near Berks, and whose 14-year-old daughter was a classmate.
“He was doing a lot,” Miller said.“It was hard for everyone who knew him.”
Philadelphia Police said DeShields, of Jessup Street near Huntingdon, was shot Oct. 12 on 10th Street near Thompson. A day later, DeShields died at Hahnemann University Hospital.
On Friday, Philadelphia Police arrested 19-year-old Dimitrius Brown, of Marvine Street near Oxford, in connection to the shooting and charged him with murder and criminal conspiracy, among other offenses. According to court records, his preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4.
Miller’s daughter, who was a good friend of DeShields, was deeply affected by the incident.
“She was there when it happened, they hang together,” Miller said. “She’s fine … it’s kind of hard to see somebody you call your little brother and best friend and have that happen, but she’s been doing fine … she was having nightmares last week, but she’s doing better now.”
Miller said DeShields—who was known to many of his classmates as “DJ”—was a “sweetheart” and beloved by everyone in his community.
“No kids are perfect, but he was very respectful towards adults,” Miller said. “Everybody who knew him liked him. I’m a grown lady, and he was my buddy. It shocked us.”
Adalene Edwards, 36, said Brown and DeShields knew each other prior to the shooting, because they used to “hang together” and attend parties.
“I think that was the problem,” Edwards said. “I believe he was jealous of him. I don’t know [Brown], but if you think about DJ, DJ had respect for everybody.”
Since DeShields’ death, Philadelphia School District spokeswoman Chanice Savage said Dunbar’s principal, Dawn Moore, has sent a letter of condolence to the DeShields family. There are counselors available at the school throughout the week for students.
Edwards said her 8-year-old son, Ya-seer, who also attends Dunbar, saw DJ as a role model, and didn’t want to attend school after hearing about his death.
“My son looked up to him so much,” she said. “I told my son, because he didn’t want to go to school, ‘Will you do it for DJ?’ And my son got out of bed, got washed up, got his clothes on, and he went to school.”
Miller and Edwards both said the community is rallying in support of DeShields’ death, and that a fundraiser is being held for his family at St. Malachy Catholic School on 11th Street near Master at 5 p.m. today.
Dunbar held a separate fundraiser last Friday, and another fundraiser is being run by Jazzy’s Entertainment, a party company DeShields used to dance for.
“Pretty much everyone who knew him is feeling it,” Miller said. “They’re all coming together to make sure this boy has a nice funeral. Everybody is trying to contribute as much as they can.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.