As St. Paul teen is laid to rest, community wrestles with how to combat gun violence

Updated: November 16, 2019 10:30 PM

Family and friends of 17-year-old Da'Qwan Jones-Morris gathered Saturday in Minneapolis to celebrate the life of the star athlete who died after being shot inside his own home.

Jones-Morris, a senior at Henry Sibley High School, died on Nov. 6. His death was the 28th homicide in St. Paul in 2019.


Two teens have been charged with manslaughter in the shooting death.

Jones-Morris' family sat quietly in the front row of the sanctuary at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. In front of them was a white casket, surrounded by flowers.

"We're doing our best," said Cheryl Jones, Da'Qwan's aunt. "It's one day at a time."

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Working toward solutions

As hundreds of people packed the church to honor the teen's life, hundreds of other people gathered across the city in St. Paul to talk about gun violence and to brainstorm solutions.

Mayor Melvin Carter held the third of three public meetings to discuss public safety issues. He opened the meeting telling the crowd Da'Qwan's funeral was being held the same day.

"This afternoon, that family, those friends, are burying Da'Qwan," Carter said. "We owe it to them to set our city on a course so we don't have to do that again."

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Residents, like Darnella Wade, said they need to get to kids early on.

"It's going to take all of us to help those kids, to come up with a solution other than gun violence or an outlet besides gun violence," she said during an interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

Wade moved away from St. Paul in the early 1990s at the city's peak of gun violence and crime. Just a few years ago, though, her son became a statistic.

"My son got shot in the head but he survived," she said. "He was shot by a 17 year old and it took them about seven days to find the culprit."

Make a commitment

During Da'Qwan's celebration of life, the Rev. Al Gallmon Jr. spoke directly to the youth who were gathered in the church. 

"We are depending on you," he said during his eulogy. "We will not make it without you."

Gallmon asked the Da'Qwan's friends and classmates come to the front of the church and put a hand on his casket.

"We want to make a commitment today that it's going to be better and events like this will not happen," Gallmon said as he prayed over the teens.

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Kirsten Swanson

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