The Columbus Dispatch

Woman seeks answers after grandchild­ren die in shooting

‘They didn’t have to kill those babies,’ she says

- Holly Zachariah and Monroe Trombly

Heartbroke­n, angry and grieving, Jessica Jones can’t think of anything except all that was lost when two gunmen killed her two grandchild­ren Tuesday night after they had piled into a car in the apartment complex where they

lived on Columbus’ Southeast Side to go meet their mother for dinner at a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings.

Demetrius Wall-neal, a 9-year-old fourth-grader at Winchester Trail Elementary School, was a pee-wee football player in Reynoldsbu­rg and idolized some of the game’s great players. And he was a hard worker, always lending grandma or anyone who needed it a hand.

His little sister, Londynn Wall-neal, a 6-year-old kindergart­ener at Indian Trail Elementary School, loved lip gloss

and all things sparkly. And she never, ever left home without a purse.

“They didn’t have to kill those babies,” said Jones, 52, whose daughter is the children’s mother.

“They were sweet kids, they were babies. What is going on in this world? This needs to stop. It needs to stop. I don’t know why this happened.”

Also shot to death Tuesday night as all three sat in a car was 22-year-old Charles Wade, who friends and

relatives say was dating the children’s mother.

The lead homicide detective investigat­ing the case called it “a targeted assassinat­ion,” pulled off by what they described as two gunmen who approached Wade’s parked vehicle and fired dozens of rounds before fleeing in a vehicle.

Columbus police Homicide Detective Terry Kelley said at a press conference Wednesday that investigat­ors were “formulatin­g leads and suspects.” Detectives said Thursday that they are making progress, but there had been no arrests as of mid-afternoon.

Kelley said he knows many people in the community are focused on the deaths of the children, but he doesn’t want Wade to be forgotten, either.

“This 22-year-old male was a victim also,” he said. “And I’m working just as hard to solve the case for him and his family as I am for these two children.”

Wade and the two children were pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting, which happened just before 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 6600 block of Kodiak Drive in the Winchester Lakes apartment complex on the city’s Southeast Side.

For Jones, it is all too much to bear: “They didn’t even make it out of the parking lot. They were killed in front of their home.”

Jones said the tragic evening unfolded quickly after her daughter worried when Wade didn’t answer her calls or texts. The mother headed home to their Kodiak Drive apartment, but found the entrance to the apartment complex blocked by police.

She sent Jones to Nationwide Children’s Hospital to see if the kids were there. It was from the hospital that a frantic Jones placed a heart-wrenching call to 911 saying she needed help finding her grandchild­ren.

Columbus police released the 911 calls from the homicide Thursday.

In Jones’ call, a sympatheti­c police dispatcher told her the children weren’t at the hospital, and she tried to console Jones and get her informatio­n so that a detective or sergeant could reach her.

But Jones’ uncontroll­able sobs continued. “Where are they, then?” she pleaded. “Where are they?”

Jones said by the time she got to the complex, local news reports had surfaced of the homicides.

“She didn’t know that they were still the car,” Jones said, referring to her daughter. “Nobody told her anything. It was a long time before anybody would tell us that they were still in the car in the cold. We couldn’t go see them. I just wanted them to know I was there, and that we couldn’t see them.”

Police call log records, also released

Thursday, paint a picture of a chaotic and emotional scene. The logs note that as friends and relatives gathered at the entrance to the apartment complex, authoritie­s had to try and keep them at bay. Investigat­ors were worried that they might damage or destroy potential evidence.

Officers reported people trying to rush the scene and running through the grass to get around the perimeter cordoned off by crime scene tape.

Columbus police Assistant Chief Lashanna Potts addressed those emotions not long after the homicides on Tuesday, as the wails of family members echoed across the night air.

“This mother is grieving, this family is devastated,” Potts said. “...There is nothing I can say to this family that will bring them closure.”

Jones said on Thursday that the children have an 11-year-old older brother who lives with her in Reynoldsbu­rg, and that he was Demetrius’ favorite person.

Demetrius “always wanted to be with him,” Jones said. “He was at my house every weekend, summer, holiday or break. Whenever he could be at my house, he was there, always, to be with his brother. They were best friends.”

Demetrius played football for the Reynoldsbu­rg Junior Raiders, a league open to elementary kids, and dreamed of someday playing in the National Football League. His grandmothe­r said he idolized players like wide receiver Odell Beckam Jr., who currently plays for the Los Angeles Rams, and Chase Young, who played for the Buckeyes before joining the Washington Football Team.

And Londynn, even at just 6, already enjoyed making videos and scrolling through Tiktok to catch up on the latest dances.

“They didn’t have to kill those babies,” Jones said again.

Ronequa Johnson told The Dispatch on Wednesday that she and Wade met in kindergart­en and have been friends ever since.

“He was like a brother to me,” she said.

Johnson said they both attended Ohio Avenue Elementary School in Columbus and Wade went on to graduate from Groveport Madison High School.

After graduation, Wade became an aspiring rapper, she said. What appear to be both his personal and music Facebook pages and his Youtube channel show that he had a following.

Johnson remembers her friend as having a “genuine heart,” a huge smile and a caring nature for others.

And Wade had more talent, she said. “He was also a great dancer. He worked hard for whatever he wanted,” Johnson said. “I don’t know why someone would snatch his life like that.”

Police have not speculated publicly on any motives for the killings. But Kelley did say during the media briefing Wednesday that as a human being, he certainly hoped the shooters did not know the children were in the car when they fired dozens of rounds into the vehicle.

Johnson said Wade had three children of his own.

“Everything that happened out there was reckless,” she said. “You’ve got a 6year-old baby and a 9-year-old baby dead that didn’t wake up and didn’t go to school this morning. That’s not OK,” Johnson said.

“That man, 22 years old, won’t be able to see his kids no more, ever again. They need to find whoever did that. They need to pay for what they did,” she said.

Tuesday night, as dusk turned to fullon night, two people called to report the gunfire.

One man said he heard dozens of shots, as many as 30. He said they sounded as if they came from two different guns. He described it as a volley.

The dispatcher asked if he had seen anyone or anything. He replied, “Couldn’t see anything at all because I ducked down behind my deck. It just sounded like at least two different shooters.”

A woman who called to report the gunfire said it shook her and was just the latest in a spate of crime at the apartment complex.

“Sounded like somebody emptied a very powerful gun,” she told a police dispatcher, adding that the shots seemed to be behind her building and echoed between the buildings. “Sounded like somebody just emptied a whole ... lot of rounds back there. It was really, really, really loud.”

She told the dispatcher that her car had recently been vandalized and that a neighbor’s apartment had been shot up: “I don’t know what’s going on here but this is ridiculous.”

Gofundme sent out a notice Thursday that a friend had establishe­d a fund, with permission of the Wall-neal family, to help pay for their burial expenses. By mid-afternoon, it had raised more than $14,000. hzachariah@dispatch.com @hollyzacha­riah mtrombly@dispatch.com @Monroetrom­bly

“She didn’t know that they were still the car. Nobody told her anything. It was a long time before anybody would tell us that they were still in the car in the cold. We couldn’t go see them. I just wanted them to know I was there, and that we couldn’t see them.”

Jessica Jones Children’s grandmothe­r

 ?? JOSHUA A. BICKEL/COLUMBUS DISPATCH ?? Columbus police vehicle lights illuminate the side of an apartment building at the scene of a triple homicide Tuesday night on the city’s Southeast Side. Three people were shot to death inside a vehicle, including siblings Demetrius Wall-neal, 9, and his sister, 6-year-old Londynn Wall-neal.
JOSHUA A. BICKEL/COLUMBUS DISPATCH Columbus police vehicle lights illuminate the side of an apartment building at the scene of a triple homicide Tuesday night on the city’s Southeast Side. Three people were shot to death inside a vehicle, including siblings Demetrius Wall-neal, 9, and his sister, 6-year-old Londynn Wall-neal.
 ?? PHOTOS PROVIDED BY FAMILY ?? Londynn Wall-neal, 6, and her brother Demetrius Wall-neal, 9, in photos provided by family.
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY FAMILY Londynn Wall-neal, 6, and her brother Demetrius Wall-neal, 9, in photos provided by family.

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