Crime & Courts

NJ couple believed Charlotte would be safer. Their teen died amid a torrid murder pace.

Courtesy of Khalifa Thompkins

The two-story house stands near the end of a cul de sac in a neighborhood of similar houses off Sunset Road in northwest Charlotte. A crape myrtle flowers in the front yard, but the home’s other distinguishing feature is the seven dime-sized holes that pock its facade.

The hole under a window over the garage was from one of a burst of bullets fired before dawn Wednesday. The bullet tore through the wall and hit Jayvon Goolsby, 16, as he slept on a sofa in his sister’s bedroom.

It made Jayvon Charlotte’s 54th homicide victim of the year, three short of the total for all of 2018, and shattered a church-going family who moved from New Jersey two years ago to what they had hoped would be a safer place.

“All we know is somebody came and shot up my house,” Michele Goolsby, Jayvon’s mother, said Thursday at her dining room table, a bullet hole in the wall. “We don’t know why. We don’t know anything.

“Jayvon didn’t have one bad bone in his body; he was a good kid. We don’t know if it was meant for him — we don’t even know if it was meant for our house. They probably targeted the wrong house, that’s the only thing we can think of.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said Wednesday that it appeared the house was targeted for unknown reasons. CMPD has not released any further information on the investigation.

The Goolsbys had moved from Bridgeton, N.J., to join other family members in Charlotte. Willie Goolsby drives a forklift and his wife is a homemaker. Jayvon has an older sister and older brother.

The family had left south Jersey as jobs evaporated in their small town and the factory where Willie Goolsby worked closed. Gangs were also becoming a problem, Goolsby said.

“I really thought that here, since it was so big, that I would have less of a chance of anything like this happening,” she said.

In New Jersey, Jayvon had played first base under his father’s baseball coaching and middle linebacker in football. At 5-foot-10 and 250 pounds, he had worked to improve his grades and hoped to play football this fall at Hopewell High School, where he was a sophomore.

Jayvon had talked of becoming a firefighter or construction worker, his mother said, but had not settled on what he wanted to do with his life.

“He is such a fun-loving person; he had a big smile on his face. He was the type of person who wanted to make people laugh,” she said. “And if there was any confrontation going on, he was the type of person to just joke it out or make sure the situation was settled. He was a loving person. He didn’t like sadness, he didn’t like confrontation at all. He loved to give people hugs.”

Fellow parishioners at the family’s Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation lined up each week for those hugs, she said. Phone calls poured in after the shooting, from friends and family in New Jersey and Charlotte. Teachers texted with sympathy and praise for Jayvon. Although her son was initially shy around strangers and had been in Charlotte only a short time, Michele Goolsby said, “I didn’t know Jayvon had so many friends like he did.”

His mother insisted that Jayvon would have told her close-knit family about any feuds, bullies or enemies. Available public documents show no indication that he had a criminal record.

“We don’t have those type of problems, nor do we bring that kind of stuff around our kids,” she said. “We practice what we preach: It doesn’t matter what denomination you are, we’re going to go and help people. That’s what Jesus did.”

The house was quiet on the morning of the shooting. Michele Goolsby had just returned from taking her husband to work. Her sister had walked in the front door when the pop-pop-pop of gunfire erupted.

“I was laying in bed and heard shooting,” she said. “I fell to the floor and yelled out to everybody to get down on the floor, and everybody moved but Jayvon.”

Jayvon was only the third-youngest homicide victim in Charlotte this year, according to data maintained by the Observer. The youngest was 7-month-old Jade Williams, whose mother was charged with killing her Jan. 28.

As the murder count rose in late April, a CMPD official said there appeared to be “no rhyme or reason” for the surge.

“I just want to know why,” Willie Goolsby said of his son’s death. “Why?”

Staff writer Ames Alexander contributed.