Saturday, November 1, 2014

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After son killed in shooting, Elkhart mother wants answers

Posted on Jan. 12, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Jan. 12, 2014 at 5:10 p.m.

ELKHART — An Elkhart mother still seeking answers in her son’s death hopes to work with the mothers of other slain teens to improve the community.

Angela Tanner’s son, Devonte Patrick, was killed Dec. 23 in a shooting in the 1300 block of Prairie Street.

She said she is organizing a meeting of Elkhart women who have lost children to violence in order to work toward a safer community.

“Elkhart used to be a safe place,” she said.

The first step toward a safer city for Elkhart’s children is stronger parenting, Tanner said.

“I believe it starts with the parents,” she said. “Sometimes you can’t help what your child becomes, but nine times out of 10 you can.”

The community has already come together to help Tanner and her family in their time of loss.

On Christmas Eve, Prairie Street Mennonite Church held a candlelight vigil in Devonte’s memory in the parking lot where he was shot.

When it came time to bury her son, Tanner found herself unprepared for the cost of a funeral and cemetery burial fees. The community rallied and donated $879 in an online campaign organized by Elkhart Advocates for Peace and Justice and Prairie Street Mennonite Church donated $462.

“It was unbelievable,” Tanner said. “It showed there are some people out here who really do care.”

Tanner says her son was a happy, family-oriented teen.

“He talked all the time,” Tanner said with a smile. “We’d be like ‘Ray — we called him Ray — you’re like the Energizer bunny.”

“It was never boring,” she added.

He was always asking questions and “wanted to know everything,” Tanner said.

Devonte’s grandmother, Shirley Fox, said he enjoyed Bible study and used to come over and ask her about the Bible.

“He was a teenager and he had his teenage moments, but he wasn’t a bad kid,” Tanner said.

He had recently moved to Grand Rapids with one of his brothers and planned to start college in January to study video production.

Remembering Devonte brings a smile to Tanner’s face, but talking about his loss is difficult, especially because she knows his killer is still on the streets.

She said she’s frustrated that no arrests have been made and sometimes worries for her own safety.

“I had to watch my son get put in a grave, and now I’ve got to watch the people who did that walking around on the streets,” she said.

The Elkhart Police Department’s investigation of Patrick’s death is ongoing and detectives continue to interview witnesses and pursue all leads, said Lt. Mike Sigsbee.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the police department at 295-7070 or the department’s anonymous homicide tip line at 389-4770.

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