by Malik Vincent
At around 10 p.m. on the evening of June 25, it was reported that two varsity football players at Gateway High School were shot, one fatally, after eating at a local establishment in Durham, N.C.
The shooting claimed the life of Darrell Turner Jr., 18, a senior linebacker for the Gators and wounded Thomas Woodson, a junior, and the team’s starting quarterback.
|DARRELL TURNER JR. and THOMAS WOODSON
Police have arrested Gabriel James Gamez, 22, of San Antonio, Texas, as the gunman. A stranger to the two victims, it was reported that he got into an altercation with the two teenagers and drew his gun and fired shots that connected with Turner’s back and Woodson’s leg.
Both youths were rushed to the Duke University Medical Center for treatment, where just moments after arriving, Turner was pronounced dead. Woodson, however, survived and is expected to make a full physical recovery.
“Today is a sad day,” said Gateway spokesperson Cara Ann Zannella. “We were very upset when we received the news on Thursday evening the two had been shot. Both had been outstanding kids and athletes. Darrell will be terribly missed.”
Zanella said counseling was available to students who wanted to talk about Mr. Turner’s death until Monday but that there wouldn’t be any more counseling unless district officials see a need.
The athletes were in Durham visiting Duke University as a part of the Team Swag football tour, organized by a man by the name of Ayo Fapohonda.
“The tour was organized to promote the skills of high school football players throughout the (Commonwealth) of Pennsylvania,” Gateway Athletics facility site manager Kevin Stevens said, who made the trip to Durham with the players.
Stevens mentioned that there were 18 student athletes and five adults, from all over the area, present with the Team Swag tour.
“The tour is designed to help kids in Pa. receive enhanced college recruiting,” Stevens said. “It is responsible for getting the kids to compete in 7-on-7 games, all over, and for them to gain exposure from coaches, who come to these events to evaluate high schoolers.”
Fapohonda, who facilitates all of the tour’s events, is also known for his creation of the finestpreps.com website that helps promote the talents of the athletes that take part in his program. He was unreachable for comment.
The particular leg of the tour that reached Durham was intended to target the Southern U.S. and some of its collegiate athletic programs.
“We’d visited (the University of Virginia) first, and then we got to Durham to visit Duke. We were going to head to Jacksonville after visiting Duke and another school in North Carolina and intended to visit the IMG academy in Bradenton (Florida) to compete. We were then going to hit Atlanta, also for competition. We hoped to get a lot done for the student athletes.”
The shooting happened in a local shopping center in Durham near the team’s hotel. The group had just finished their meal at a Five Guys Restaurant nearby.
“Darrell was the closet person to the assailant,” Stevens said. “Tom was the furthest from the shooting and when he realized what was happening he began to run away. Unfortunately, he was still shot. It was senseless. If you’re an adult and carrying (a) weapon, there’s no way that they should just start shooting at kids. It’s just unacceptable.”
“He was just at my son’s graduation party,” Tammy Richardson, the mother of Gateway’s star former wide receiver, Christian Richardson said. “Darrell was very close to my daughter, he was like her big brother. I fed him for four years. I only have one son, but as an involved parent, something like this feels like I’ve lost one of my own.”
Gateway’s head football coach and athletic director Terry Smith, deeply saddened, has declined to submit comments to the media.
“I was at the vigil that was held for Darrell after everyone had received the news,” Richardson said. “It was terrible to see how many young people had been affected by this. But it wasn’t only them. It felt as though the whole community had experienced a loss.”
Visitation is set for Thursday from 2-8 p.m. at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, 271 Paulson Ave. in East Liberty. Funeral services will be held on Friday at 11 a.m. in the Potter’s House Ministry Church, 430 Cathedral Ave., in Mt. Oliver.
(Malik Vincent can be reached can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)