14-year-old wounded in Lawrence birthday party shooting dies

LAWRENCE, Ind. – A 14-year-old boy who was shot in the head during a birthday party in Lawrence last weekend has died.

According to the Lawrence Police Department, Daron Johnson has been pronounced dead. The teen was brain dead and family members didn’t expect him to recover.

The teen was at a birthday party for a 13-year old at the Lions Club building late Saturday when two people opened fire, wounding five people between 11 and 14 years old  including Johnson.

Johnson’s mother described her son as an innocent bystander and says he wasn’t specifically targeted. She said she allowed him to go to the party because several adults were serving as chaperones.

"Tragic. From what our investigation is revealing he had nothing to do he was just an attendee at the party, was not involved with the fight and absolute tragedy," Lawrence Deputy Police Chief Gary Woodruff said.

Lawrence police said they believe a fight started at the party, more people joined in and two people fired a total of somewhere around half a dozen shots total, based on the evidence.  Police said there were as many as 75 people there at the time.

"There's no indication at this point that these firearms came from their home, so it appears that this may have been obtained in the street in some way obviously that's still very much a part of our investigation," Woodruff said.

Officers arrested a 14-year-old suspect and located a firearm shortly after the crime, but are still seeking a second shooter they believe to also be a teenager.

"So far that second person remains unidentified. The diligent effort continues but we're still relying on somebody who may know something to contact Lawrence Police or share the information they may know anonymously through Crimestoppers," Lawrence said.

The crime and loss of a young life is felt in every corner of the community.

"It was such disheartening devastating to our community to see that because we are very much behind empowering our youth and to see such a tragedy happen on this side of town it's a sad site to see," Derris Ross, the founder of The Ross Foundation, said.

The organization works with youth and the community on the far east side. Ross he met Daron and his family at a back to school event last year.

"They were able to be a part of that event and ever since then they've been involved with The Ross Foundation and all the community events and engagement things we do as far as trying to reduce homicides and violence in our neighborhoods and bring the community together," Ross said.

Ross said the organization's peace march on June 30th will be dedicated to Daron and the other victims.

On Saturday, June 16, Daron's family is holding a Cease Fire Rally from 2-5 p.m. at 25th Street and Hillside Street. That evening, his mother is holding a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. at 46th Street and Richardt Avenue.

Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Johnson's funeral is set for June 23.

Meanwhile, police said they're looking to get in touch with those at the party and their parents. Anyone with information on the case, including photos or videos, is asked to contact Lawrence police at 317-549-6404 or Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS. All tips to Crime Stoppers are considered anonymous.