ST. PAUL — It started as a plan to play a video game after school Wednesday, Nov. 6.
Three teens went to 17-year-old Da’Qwan Jones-Morris’ house in the 100 block of East Annapolis Street on St. Paul’s West Side.
Jones-Morris — co-captain of the football team at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights — was playing the “Madden” football video game when Tevis Devol Staples, 16, took out a gun he reportedly stole out of a vehicle in late October.
He unloaded the firearm and handed it to his 15-year-old friend sitting nearby, who proceeded to play with it — pulling the trigger and pointing it around — before handing it back to Staples.
That’s when Staples said he loaded the gun and handed it back to the younger teen, telling him to place it in his bag.
Then he heard “a loud shot” and discovered that the 15-year-old accidentally shot Jones-Morris, according to the account outlined in juvenile petitions against Staples and the 15-year-old. Both were charged Thursday in Ramsey County District Court with separate counts of second-degree manslaughter. The names of minors 15 years and under charged with felonies are private under state law.
Second-degree manslaughter is brought in cases where individuals are accused of causing the death of another by consciously engaging in conduct that creates an unreasonable risk of “causing death or great bodily harm.”
Police who responded to the scene at 3:37 p.m. Wednesday discovered Jones-Morris lying in a pool of blood in his basement with a white sheet over him as medics pronounced him dead.
The 15-year-old called 911 after the shooting as Staples tried to apply pressure to his friend’s wound, authorities say.
Police learned what happened in separate interviews with the two teens.
While the 15-year-old initially said he found the gun in some bushes and that Staples had nothing to do with it, he eventually admitted that his friend produced the gun after learning that Staples had already said as much, according to the petition.
The younger teen told investigators he had turned away to pull out a cigar to smoke when Staples handed the firearm back to him, so he hadn’t seen him load it, the petition said.
Staples reportedly told officers that he stole the gun from a vehicle parked at Sibley High School on Oct. 31.
He said the firearm was sitting on the passenger seat of a white SUV next to a passed out male, the petition said.
Family, school remembers teen
As a senior at Sibley, Jones-Morris was co-captain of the football team and a key member of the basketball team, his mother, Monica Jones, wrote on Thursday.
She called his death a shock and said they “are just beginning to experience the depth of our pain, grief and loss — as family, friends, classmates, and all in our broader community.”
Jones-Morris “was funny, outgoing, and well liked by all who knew him,” Jones wrote. “ … Da’Qwan was known for his love of music, technology, sports, and a favorite babysitter for many children. His sweet smile could light up a room.”
He had his senior photos taken the weekend before his death and they “captured his joyful spirit, playfulness, and vitality,” wrote Jones, adding that her son was planning to attend college in Minnesota.
People who want to assist Jones with funeral and other costs can donate to her at paypal.me/DaQwanForever.
Sibley Principal Ron Monson said there were counselors and mental health professionals on hand at the school Thursday.
John Carrier, Sibley’s boys varsity basketball coach, remembered Jones-Morris as “an amazing young man.”
“He had an infectious personality, which pulled in everyone around him,” Carrier said. “He also had a great sense of humor and could brighten any situation. Most of all, he was an amazing teammate who was always there to pull others up. His loss will leave a void in our school and the lives of those who knew him.”
There was a moment of silence at Sibley on Thursday and Jones-Morris’ photo was displayed on electronic lunch boards.
Sibley’s school colors are red and gold, and students and others were wearing red for Jones-Morris on Thursday.
A Sibley student told her mother, Julie Lyford, that there were more people wearing red than any of the pep days and everyone was silent in the hallways.
Students in one class decorated Jones-Morris’ chair with his jersey number, 21, along with red and gold balloons and streamers, and a message “LL1K” — standing for Long Live 1K. 1K was Jones-Morris’ nickname.
A Thursday event at the school to showcase Sibley to eighth-graders was rescheduled to Tuesday because the majority of it involves interacting with students and staff, and “it was a really difficult day for everyone,” said Carrie Ardito, the school district’s spokeswoman.