- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

One by one yesterday, mourners stepped up to the microphone to recall the life of Lavelle Kendall Jones.

His favorite color was red, family and friends said.

He once received an award for perfect attendance.

And one day, after graduating from Ballou Senior High School, the boy who loved to smile hoped to attend college and play football.

Lavelle, 16, was killed last week in Southeast when a bullet was fired into his head from someone in a car in the next lane. At the time, he was sitting in a passenger seat at a red light, police said.

“He was so young to be released to heaven,” said Carolyn Thomas, who taught Lavelle in the sixth grade. “Fly on, Lavelle, goodbye.”

Miss Thomas was among the hundreds of people who gathered at Spirit of Faith Christian Center just across the D.C. line to honor the life of the latest young person to succumb to violence in the District.

While the District’s overall homicide rate is on the decline, the number of juveniles killed has climbed. Authorities say 24 juveniles were slain last year, nearly twice the number in 2003. Most were teenagers.

“Let’s stop the violence; let’s get the guns off the streets,” said D.C. Council member Marion Barry, the former D.C. mayor who now represents Ward 8, where Ballou is located. “Let’s be a community of love and understanding.”

Lavelle’s death comes 15 months after Ballou football player James Richardson, 17, was fatally shot outside the school cafeteria. Another student later pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

Many of those paying their respects yesterday were teenagers. Some came dressed in black T-shirts printed with an image of Lavelle and the numbers 5-9-88, the day he was born, and 4-24-05, the day he was killed.

“There are too many young people dying,” said Nicole Williams, 16, who attended classes with Lavelle three years ago. She said Lavelle was “a really fun person” who always smiled and made jokes. And she said he was not the kind of youth who looked for trouble.

Police say Lavelle was killed about 2 a.m. on April 24 while driving home with two other teenagers from a nightclub. Neither of the other teens has been able to describe the gunman or the vehicle that pulled up beside them, authorities said.

But Mr. Barry, a Democrat who was greeted by a standing ovation at the funeral, said the issue is not how late Lavelle was out. Instead, he turned his anger toward the proliferation of guns.

“Frankly, I’m tired of it,” he said, referring to the number of funerals for young people that he has attended. But Mr. Barry urged the city’s youth not to get discouraged and pledged to do everything he could to keep them safe.

“Young people, stay in school,” he said to shouts of approval and loud applause. “Look to the future. There’s hope; there’s help.”

Mourners lined up well before the funeral to file past Lavelle’s blue casket. The boy’s body was dressed in a gray suit with a football jersey placed near his head. He was surrounded by a half-dozen large bouquets of brightly colored flowers.

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