The 11-year-old boy found shot in the living room of his St. Paul home was near death, but he was able to tell police officers that his mother’s boyfriend did it.
His 30-year-old mother and 14-year-old sister, La’Porsha Wallace, were already dead in the Saturday afternoon shooting and the boy, Ja’Corbie Wallace, died soon after.
“He loved his mom,” Josephine Johnson, an aunt of D’Zondria Wallace, said Monday. “His mom was his life and I know that he died fighting for his mom.”
Ramsey County prosecutors are reviewing a case against TeKeith Svyone Jones, 26, who was taken into custody by members of the St. Paul Police SWAT team Sunday night. He is being held in the Ramsey County jail on suspicion of three counts of murder.
Relatives and friends say Jones and Wallace were in a relationship. Wallace told Wileathia Brown, who considered Wallace her best friend, that she was trying to leave him behind.
Last summer, Brown said she was there when the couple argued. Jones said something to Wallace along the lines of, “I will kill you and there ain’t nothing your family can do about it,” according to Brown, who said Wallace used to cry to her about the names that Jones called her.
Brown went to Wallace’s East Side apartment last week and she said Jones opened the door holding a gun. She thought maybe someone was after him and that was why he had the weapon.
“I never thought he was going to use it against her and her kids,” said Brown, who wishes now she had been more suspicious of Jones. “She and her kids were such sweet people — they didn’t deserve any of this.”
Wallace told her cousin, Moesha Whitehall, in November or December that she was pregnant; police haven’t confirmed whether she was.
“She loved being a mom with all her heart,” Whitehall said of Wallace, who moved her children from Mississippi to Minnesota to get a new start and be closer to family.
POLICE TALKED TO WOMAN SHORTLY BEFORE SHOOTING
About one hour before police responded to the shooting on Jessie Street between Minnehaha and Bush avenues on Saturday afternoon, an officer went to the house to check on Wallace at the request of an out-of-state relative.
“She looked at the officer and said, ‘I’m OK. Tell them I’m OK,’ ” according to Mike Ernster, a St. Paul police spokesman.
There was not a record of domestic violence police reports in St. Paul that named Jones. Some relatives who talked to the Pioneer Press said Wallace had not told them about problems in her relationship.
When there is domestic abuse and someone is trying to leave, it’s “one of the most dangerous times because domestic abuse is about power and control and being able to control the victim, and they’re losing that power,” said Shelley Johnson Cline, executive director of the St. Paul and Ramsey County Domestic Abuse Intervention Project.
That’s why it’s so important for people to know they can get help with safety planning from a community-based domestic violence program, Johnson Cline said.
People experiencing abuse in Minnesota can call the Day One Crisis Hotline 24 hours a day at 866-223-1111 or by texting the hotline at 612-399-9995.
‘HE FOUGHT AS HARD AS HE COULD’
Outside the Payne-Phalen home where the Wallace family lived, relatives placed candles on the sidewalk Monday night in the shapes of Wallace’s, Ja’Corbie’s and La’Porsha’s initials.
They lit them and Whitehall, said, “I wish we didn’t have to be here to do this for them … but God wanted them home. And I know we’re all hurting, but we will get them justice.”
After sharing memories of the three, they released balloons in the street and shouted, “We love you!”
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It was Wallace’s aunt and uncle who stopped by the house Saturday and found them.
When the family didn’t respond and Harold Johnson thought he heard noise inside, he pushed a door open. He saw his great-niece, La’Porsha, and initially believed she was sleeping, but then he saw Ja’Corbie.
“He said, ‘Uncle, help me,’ and then I saw all the blood,” Johnson said.
He quickly told his wife, Josephine Johnson, to call 911. She did and she rushed to the home of a family friend down the street, asking her to come help.
The friend went to the house and checked D’Zondria and La’Porsha, but neither had pulses. The woman said she was there when Ja’Corbie told the police who was responsible.
Paramedics took the 11-year-old to Regions Hospital. Jeanette Whitehall, a cousin, said she was the only one allowed inside because of COVID-19 precautions.
“That was the hardest thing I ever had to do was sit there and wait and for that surgeon to come in there and tell me, ‘He fought as hard as he could,’” she said. “It broke me. … I’m just so sorry I wasn’t there to protect Suga (La’Porsha) because I always told her as long as she was with me, I would never let anything happen to her.”
HOW TO HELP
Contributions for funeral expenses can be made at the family’s GoFundMe site.