The grandmother of 16-year-old murder suspect Damien Wright said trouble started when they moved to Charlottes Enderly Park neighborhood about nine months ago.
Mary Jane Jackson told the Observer on Thursday that she had been planning to move because she was afraid for her teenage grandson and his younger brother.
All Damiens troubles came here, Jackson said, pointing downward at the porch of her modest brick home in the troubled neighborhood. A month ago, Damien said, Grandma, when are we gonna move out of here?
Now Wright is being held in Mecklenburg jail without bond, charged with murder in the shooting death of his 13-year-old friend, Khalil Malik Cousart.
The shooting happened about 1 a.m. Tuesday near Tuckaseegee Road and Parkway Avenue, a few blocks from Jacksons home. Khalil was found wounded there, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, and the rising eighth-grader soon died at an area hospital.
Now Jackson is mourning the loss of Khalil a boy she thought of like a son who even called her grandma. And she worries about what will happen to her grandson, whom she believes was only trying to protect his friend.
A call from jail
Police have released few details about the case and described little of what happened leading up to the shooting.
Khalils relatives have said that he planned to spend the night with Wrights younger brother.
Jackson said Khalil had previously spent the night at her home, but on the night of the shooting, she told Khalil he needed to go home because she didnt have permission from his family for him to stay over. When she went to bed, Wright was home and Khalil was gone, she said.
She said shes not sure how the pair ended up together again later that night, and she doesnt know where Wright got a gun.
Jackson said Wright called her from jail after the shooting.
She said he told her that while he and Khalil were walking around 1 a.m., he was threatened by someone in a white car. He said he told Khalil to run and then fired gunshots at the car as he ran away, according to his grandmother.
Somehow, Khalil was wounded, Jackson said Wright told her.
Jackson said Wright called 911 but then fled the scene and headed home, leaving the gun behind. Jackson said she believes Wright was hysterical and didnt know what to do.
Rumors about the circumstances of the shooting are rampant in the neighborhood. Khalils relatives have said theyve heard the shooting was an accident.
Jackson said she plans to visit Wright in jail next week. She wants to hear the story face to face.
I dont know whats true. Khalil is the only one who can say whats true.
But even if authorities believe Khalil wasnt the intended target, Wright can still be charged with murder.
Its been a nightmare
Jackson said she grew up in the west Charlotte area and moved back recently. She said she had no choice. The family lives paycheck to paycheck.
From Day One that I moved into this house, its been a nightmare, she said.
She said she sees people loitering in the street, she knows about drug dealing, and she hears gunshots.
I had fear in my heart that something was gonna happen to Damien, Jackson said.
Khalil was a frequent visitor at her home. She said she cared about him and that she even fussed at Khalil like she does with her own grandchildren.
Jackson said shes raised three of her grandchildren, including Wright. Damien was special to me from the day he was born, she said.
Wright, a rising freshman at West Charlotte High School, went to summer school this year to make up some class credits and had hoped to graduate on time, Jackson said.
Records show Wright was arrested in January on misdemeanor drug offenses. In April, he was charged with possession of a gun by a minor as well as possession of a gun with the serial number removed, but those charges were dismissed.
When he was arrested then, Jackson said she told him, If you get back in trouble again, itll be something I cant get you out of.
She said he told her: I wont be back in trouble unless someone tries to hurt me. Staff researcher Maria David contributed.