Photo by Chris Sykes
Kamiah Caraway wears a memorial T-shirt of her cousin, 17-year-old Davon Jones, who was shot and killed on Taylor Street in Orange on Thursday, April 14, during his funeral on Saturday, April 23.
ORANGE, NJ — Emotion flowed freely at the funeral for Davon Jones, 17, of Orange at St. Matthews AME Church on Oakwood Avenue on Saturday, April 23. Jones was the only fatality in the Taylor Street shooting Thursday, April 14, that resulted in the hospitalization of three other male victims, all suffering from non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.
“Davon was my cousin; I looked up to him as a kid,” said Kamiah Caraway, a cousin, at the funeral on Saturday, April 23. “He told me how to do things right and wrong. He told me I should always be successful in school and chase my dreams. What happened to him was tragic. Our city is crazy out here — these killings for nothing.”
Caraway also said she wanted to set the record straight about her cousin, for those who didn’t know what kind of person he was and the type of life he led while he was alive.
“My cousin was never in a gang,” said Caraway. “He was a good kid; he wasn’t a bad kid. He went to school, he got good grades, he did everything good. He was always a good kid. All he wanted to do was chase his dreams and get his family out (of) the ‘hood.”
“I actually had him in my class a couple years back, so his death really touched me,” said Eric Sylvester, an Orange native who is a teacher in the Orange School District, on Saturday, April 23. “I’m not an immediate family member, but it brought tears to my eyes. I’m tired of seeing this. I see him every day and then something like this happens. He didn’t deserve this. He was a great kid.”
Sylvester said he’s always forced to ask himself why, whenever such a tragedy occurs. He said it’s bad that incidents such as this shooting death seem to have become commonplace in Orange and other communities.
“He didn’t do anything,” continued Sylvester. “He was always one of those kids that everybody was like, ‘This guy’s has a bright future,’ whether it was in sports or whatever; he was a great talent. Everything that they said in the funeral was very true.”
Sylvester said children such as Jones were a big part of the reason he returned to Orange to start a career in teaching. He said he wants to be an example for them that they can do anything they want to do with their lives, as long as they stay alive long enough.
“I don’t want the kids to feel fearful,” said Sylvester. “I want them to know there’s guys like me out here that want things to be better, that want things to happen, want them to do better. I want the kids to look up to me; that’s how I feel. When they see me, they believe they can do anything, because I come from the same place they come from.”
Sylvester said he is trying to find a silver lining in the cloud of grief hanging over the city since the teen’s death. He said he “hopes they realize, when you’re in the street, anything can happen.”
Orange Pop Warner Bengals head coach Darren Fisher also talked about the pointlessness of the loss of Jones’ life for nothing. He said something needs to be done about the situation, which is why he also came back to the city where he grew up.
“Something is very wrong,” said Fisher on Saturday, April 23. “Davon was one of my kids. He didn’t play on the Bengals, but I embraced him. Once I embrace you, you’re one of mine. He absolutely didn’t deserve this. He was a very good kid. He carried himself well. His appearance was well. This is devastating.”
Fisher said Jones’ death highlights the fact that the city’s leaders need to get their priorities in order as soon as possible.
“It has a lot to do with who’s running the city and what’s being done in the city,” said Fisher. “It’s election time and everybody is worried about the election and what this person is doing and what that person is not doing and, meanwhile, our children are getting killed. And that’s what people should be worried about.”
Councilwoman at Large Donna K. Williams, who is running for re-election to a third consecutive term in the nonpartisan municipal election on Tuesday, May 10, and is also a member of the People’s Organization for Progress, said she is worried about young people getting killed by other young people.
“I’m tired of meeting people here for these same reasons of burying our babies; I’m just tired,” said Williams on Saturday, April 23. “Davon had a world of potential. He came from a beautiful family. … Malcolm X said: Are we going to use the ballot or the bullet, and maybe they both have a place, but it seems like the bullet is just winning over and we’re not using it, in the sense of a civil war. We’re having inner city wars and losing the battle tremendously, because we’re losing our babies, our futures.”
“I did speak at the funeral yesterday and I know Davon as a little boy playing football with my son in the Recreation Department Football Program and it was particularly tough for me to have to envision the fact that this boy who was full of life; who was a smart, contagiously outgoing young person to be laid in a casket,” said Mayor Dwayne Warren on Saturday, April 23.
“You look at his face and you just see flashes of all the people on his team. You see my son, his team, different things that we’ve experienced together. That was very tough and I know the family as well. And then to know that he died from a tragic, senseless, violent kind of death was very sad for me and for the city,” Warren added.
“The investigation is active and ongoing at this time,” said Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas S. Fennelly of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Homicide Unit on Thursday, April 14. “This incident is being investigated by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Major Crimes Task Force.”