- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 7, 2004

Students, educators, coaches, politicians and friends filled the Paramount Baptist Church in Southeast yesterday to say goodbye to their “J-Rock” — James Richardson, the Ballou High School student and star football player who was fatally shot Monday inside the school.

“All he wanted to do was get his family out of the projects, and football was his way out,” said Chris Dunn, a mentor for James, 17, and his nephew, Robert Dunn, 17, who also plays football for Ballou.

“He was one of the best running backs in the city, gaining over 1,000 yards this year alone,” said Mr. Dunn, 41 “He was destined for college and he had the potential to get a football scholarship.”

Ballou students wore T-shirts emblazoned with a picture of James in his No. 8 football uniform and holding up his helmet, and the dates of his birth and death. Other students wore shirts that read: “R.I.P.” for rest in peace. Church members estimated that thousands of people filed through the church on Fourth Street to pay their respects during the three-hour viewing that started at 9 a.m.

Dajuan Stover, a running back at Woodson High School in Northeast, came to say goodbye to his boyhood friend and someone he considered a brother. Like James, Dajuan lives in the Condon Terrace neighborhood in Southeast. To pay his respects yesterday Dajuan wore a gray hooded jacket with the Ballou Knights logo on the front.

“He was a good person, a good football player and a close friend,” said Dajuan. “He never cared about who won — it was all about fun and getting to college so that he could play football.”

The casket was closed to sobs and wailing. The young victim was buried in his purple and gold football jersey. Shortly before the service began, the church choir brought the crowd to its feet by singing “Going Up Yonder.” Michelle Richardson, the mother of the slain boy, sang her own emotional rendition of R. Kelly’s “I Can Fly.”

“I believe J-Rock is flying — today he is all right. I know, I know, he’s all right. He’s flying,” she sang as mourners lifted their hands, swayed from side to side and shouted “Amen.”

Pastor Ishmael L. Shaw officiated in the service that ran nearly three hours. Letters of condolence from city officials including D.C. Council member Sandy Allen from Ward 8 were read; a friend offered a rap letter to James.

“We gather here because of a tragic situation, but we still praise the Lord,” said Mr. Shaw, who asked speakers — including Mayor Anthony A. Williams; Elfreda W. Massie, acting superintendent of D.C. Public Schools; Noel Cyrus, head football coach at Ballou, and members of the clergy — to keep their remarks short.

During the services, James’ mother was presented a framed No. 8 football jersey. Assistant Ballou football coach David Venable told the capacity crowd in the sanctuary to get out of their seats. “Stand up. You stand up for the bride when she comes down the aisle. You stand up for that judge when he comes into the room. Stand up for the Lord,” Mr. Venable said.

“Nobody will ever wear No. 8 [again] at Ballou High School,” he said to the family as the jersey was presented. A shop framed the jersey without charge.

Standing at the pulpit, Mr. Venable looked down at James’ casket and said, “The white community loved you. The black community loved you. Your death was not in vain.”

Thomas Boykin, 18, also a student at the school, surrendered Tuesday to Metropolitan Police, and was charged with second-degree murder. He is being held without bond.

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Williams and former Mayor Marion Barry were among mourners attending funeral services at Holy Christian Missionary Baptist Church for All People for Jahkema Princess Hansen, 14, who was killed Jan. 23. Another mourner was Geraldine Green-Reed, who taught both Jahkema and James Richardson. She said her “heart was torn out” when she heard the news.

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