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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A 17-year-old student at Hillsboro High School was shot and killed inside his home late Tuesday night while defending his family, according to Metro police.
It happened just before midnight at a home in the 1000 block of Capitol Point in the J. Henry Hale Apartments near Charlotte Avenue and 16th Avenue North.
Metro police said four people were asleep in the home–the teenage victim, his mother, stepfather and grandfather– when two suspects kicked in the door, demanded money and ordered the family go to a hallway.
Police said 17-year-old Ja’Donte Hancock scuffled with one of the gunmen and was shot in the chest. He was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Ja’Donte’s stepfather, Joseph Patton, was also pistol-whipped.
The gunmen ran from the home without taking anything. Investigators initially thought this might have been a targeted crime, but now they are investigating the possibility the suspects went to the wrong house.
Police say they’ve found nothing at this point to link the suspects to the victim and his family. They are hoping surveillance video from a nearby business will give them a better suspect description.
Police released a description of the men based on information from the family.
They are believed to be in their late 20s to 30s. One of them, who wore a red beanie hat and a red jacket, smelled of alcohol and had the appearance of being intoxicated, according to the victims. The other gunman was masked and wore all black clothing.
“Community members are asked to take note of the red beanie hat and red jacket clothing description of the one gunman,” Metro police said in a press release.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Nashville Crime Stoppers at 615-74-CRIME.
The teen goes by two different last names: Ja’Donte Thompson and Ja’Donte Hancock Jr. He is a Hillsboro High School student. Metro Nashville Public Schools released a statement about the teen, saying they are saddened by his death.
The district’s statement reads, in full:
MNPS is saddened to learn about the tragic death of a 17-year-old Hillsboro High School student. He enrolled at Hillsboro this fall and previously attended East Nashville Magnet School. And though he wasn’t at the school long, he had a positive impact on his classmates, teachers and staff. He planned to join Hillsboro’s DECA chapter and baseball team. Teachers said he had model behavior and was a good example of an aspiring leader. This is a tragic case of senseless violence that has saddened all of us here at Metro Nashville Public Schools, and particularly the staff and students at Hillsboro and East High Schools. The district is providing grief counselors to support students and faculty. Our deepest sympathy is extended to the family during their time of grief.
Ja’Donte’s family speaks after tragic shooting
The 17-year-old’s family spoke to News 2 just hours after his death, sharing more about his life and the type of person he was.
“He was an amazing child. He had a beautiful smile, and he did everything he supposed to do as a child,” said his father, Ja’Donte Hancock.
He added, “He was a good kid; I miss my baby.”
Hancock said his son, his first born, wanted to join the U.S. Navy to help take care of his brothers and sisters.
“I don’t know why somebody would do that to my child,” he told News 2. “He was protecting his mother, and that’s what happened to my child while protecting his mother.”
Hancock also spoke on teen violence, saying all he wants is for it to stop.
“Just stop killing, man, like do what you have to do, just stop killing. That’s all I got to say, stop killing, man. These kids need to go to school and be productive,” he said.
The grieving father said his son didn’t deserve to die like this.
“Protecting his mother, he’s a good guy, and my son didn’t go down as – he went down as you protected your mother, and I respect him for that. He didn’t die from out here gangbanging or nothing like that, he protected his mother, and I love that,” Hancock added.
Ja’Donte’s grandmother told News 2 he was well-respected and a good role model for his siblings.
“He respected his mother to the fullest,” said Shirley Whitlow. “He stepped up at a young age to take care of his sister while his mother goes to work.”
Whitlow said the way he protected his family Tuesday night was something he’s always done.
“It didn’t start last night. He’s been looking out and protecting his mother and sister years ago,” she said.
Through tears, the grandmother said she has no doubt where Ja’Donte is now, saying he’s with God.
“I’m hurt in my heart, I’m going to miss him, but one of these old days, one of these old days, we all are going to be together,” Whitlow said.
She also spoke on the gun violence, saying, “Our youth, our youth, we’re losing our youth and we need to get together and help our youth.”
“Please come out to the community to help our youth. They are lost. We need to be a role model. The men, the grown men, need to step up,” Whitlow added.
As to the gunmen, who have yet to be caught, the grandmother had a message for them.
“The person who did it, I pray for them. I pray for them, I don’t wish nothing bad on them, but I pray for them. Whatever they are going through, I pray for them. I wish nothing bad on them,” she told News 2.