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Teen killed in Richmond was 'well-mannered hero' in to school and sports, mother says

'I'm honestly lost, but I have to be strong for him. I have to.'
Jaywan Riley
Posted at 9:31 AM, Apr 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 00:01:49-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A vigil Sunday celebrated the life of a 15-year-old boy killed in South Richmond whose mother remembered him as a responsible, well-mannered hero who was in to school and sports.

Police were called to the 2300 block of Afton Avenue in Bellemeade for a report of a person shot just after 4:45 p.m. Thursday.

"Officers arrived and found a juvenile male who was suffering an apparent gunshot wound," James Mercante with Richmond Police said. "He was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injury."

Toneca Riley called the day her eldest son, Jaywan, was killed the “worst day.”

“I lost my first love, my firstborn, best friend,” Riley said. “He grew up with me. He’s always been my hero, my protector.”

Jaywan Riley
Jaywan and Toneca Riley

Riley believes her son died protecting his girlfriend from what she called an abusive situation.

“All I can hear my baby saying is, he wanted to protect her,” she said. “He wanted to help her. He was very emotional. He was very hurt.”

Riley remembered the boy she raised, along with help from "the village" in her family, as a caring, loving person.

"He loved his siblings. He loves his animals," she said. "He will call on you any day and check in on you, just to hear your voice."

She also said he was a comedian who "kept us going, kept us laughing."

"He was everything to us and he means everything to me," she said. "I'm honestly lost, but I have to be strong for him. I have to."

Jaywan Riley
"A happy family"
"We had family pictures this day and it was a certain way he wanted to be for the picture," Toneca Riley said, remembering her 15-year-old son, Jaywan.

Riley recalled her son, a freshman at George Wythe High School, checking the doors and windows each night before the family went to bed because she worried about violence in the area.

“I’ve been fearful,” Riley said. “I’ve did everything that I could do as a mother. I asked for help.”

But she said her pleas were ignored.

“And I always was told them, ‘Be direct with me.What if something happens to my son?’” she said. “Now what? This violence has to stop -- and put a stop on it now. I’m not being silent for nobody.”

Riley said she gave her son advice before the unthinkable happened.

"Letting him understand that certain things you can't volunteer yourself into unless that person actually really wants help," she said. "But you can be the first one to put yourself in, if they're not trying to help themselves."

Riley had a warning for other parents.

"We have to stop this violence," she said. "Parents need to start being parents and raising our kids the right way, because we don't need to be losing any more kids. My son is a victim."

And to others grappling with an unexpected loss, Riley said fortitude is crucial.

"There is help out here. Keep your faith, keep your courage, remain positive and remain strong," she said. "We're going to get through it all, justice will be served."

Riley urged anyone with information about the case to come forward for Jaywan.

"I want everybody to speak up. Speak up on what you know," she pleaded. "Ya'll have all these numbers that you can contact. Please do so. My son did not deserve this."

Jaywan Riley
Toneca Riley's son, Jaywan Riley, was killed in a shooting in Richmond Thursday, April 8, 2021.

Thursday’s shooting was one of nine that have happened across the city since Easter Sunday.

Ten people have been shot with five of the victims under the age of 21.

Crime Insider sources said major crimes detectives are averaging a homicide investigation every 16 hours this week.

Richmond has seen a spate of deadly shooting since Easter Sunday.

RELATED: Slain father of 6 would 'do anything to help,' mother remembers

Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith spoke about the violence after the shooting that killed Riley.

“We need the community's help. We need to all come together and think outside of the box about what can we do for the summer,” Smith warned.

If you have information that could help detectives, call Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000 or submit a tip online at The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All three Crime Stoppers methods of contact are anonymous.