Family suspects friends as streets claim another teen life

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By Russ McQuaid

INDIANAPOLIS – Ja’Vonne Ellis did a lot of living in 15 years.

He gave up football after being mysteriously shot in the foot. He was bounced from middle school for punching a teacher. He was caught with marijuana and a friend with a gun in the spring, right about the same time another friend was shot to death at the Village at Mill Crossing and he discovered welding at Arsenal Technical High School and his sister thinks he could have made a career of it.

That was before Ellis was shot to death Monday night at 38th and Station Streets on the city’s north side.

Metro homicide detectives are looking for a pair of sixteen-year-olds they’d like to question.

“Whoever it was, they had to call him to meet him on that street. He don’t just leave the house. He can’t just leave the house,” said Jayln Ellis, Ja’Vonne’s sister. “So it had to have been a close friend. He don’t talk to too many people.”

Ellis said one of his brother’s best friends has made himself scarce ever since the killing.

He’s the same teenager Ellis was busted with in May on the marijuana charge.

“I don’t know,” said Ellis’ big sister. “It’s jobs. It’s just kids. They don’t have nothing productive to do. So I feel like they get bored and they want to get into the street life.”

That sentiment was echoed by Ellis’ friend Danta Hannon at the murder scene.

“Everything is just like coincidental, you know what I mean,” he asked. “You see somebody in five minutes, and in ten minutes, he’s dead.”

Hannon feels the city’s emphasis on tracking recent prison parolees is misguided.

“Everybody focused on prison. We oughta be worried about these kids, man.”

“I don’t see why everybody worried about Broad Ripple and north side,” said Hannon, reflecting on the recent 4th of July weekend shootings that left 7 people injured, “when clearly its the east side and these east side black kids the kids in IPS that clearly got all the problems, man.”

Ellis was one of those kids, passing through John Marshall Community School and the Coleman Alternative Academy on his way to Tech where he sat out most of his freshman year with a bullet wound to the foot.

“All those people up north. All those people out west. That …. is irrelevant, bro. It’s all about these kids out east, bro. Its real tough man. All poverty, death, dying, robbery. That’s what these kids is all growing up in.”

“It’s these kids, bro. Kids in kindergarten. That’s where they need to start. IPS kids, bro. IPS kids in general. That’s what needs the most help. Don’t nobody in Broad Ripple need help. They got money.”

“If it wasn’t growing up in so much violence, I know for a fact there wouldn’t be so many people dead. That’s for a fact, bro.”

It’s teens like Ellis and Hannon that President Obama was focused on Monday as he hosted the “My Brother’s Keepers” town hall meeting in Washington. Mayor Greg Ballard was there to compare notes with his “Your Life Matters” campaign in Indianapolis.

“There’s always a group of primarily young men who are just lost,” said the mayor after he landed at Indianapolis International Airport barely an hour before Ja’Vonne Ellis lost his life. “They’re either dropping out or they’re unskilled and they age out or we completely lose track of them. We don’t know who they are. We don’t know where they are and no skill sets and they’re just wandering the streets wherever they are and you wonder why all this stuff happens.”

Jayln Ellis doesn’t wonder.

“They don’t just sit around and have fun,” she said. “All they think about is violence.”

The Ellis family recently moved out of the townhouse community where one of Ja’Vonne’s friends was murdered.

“Yesterday somebody told me in the Mills they were playing around with guns. Shooting at each other, like purposefully shooting at each other, trying to kill each other just for fun. Somebody just told me that yesterday.”

In his town hall meeting, President Obama announced a partnership with the NBA and its players association to identify 25,000 mentors nationwide to work with the most at-risk youngsters in America cities.

An Indiana Pacers spokesman told Fox59 News that while the team had not yet heard of its inclusion n that mentor program, it would release a statement once the details became known.

The president also announced that the nation’s largest school districts would participate in his “My Brother’s Keeper” program.

A spokeswoman for IPS Superintendent Dr. Louis Ferebee confirmed the local school boss had signed such a pledge.

Indianapolis has had 87 homicides this year.

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