After sundown Wednesday, a group of seven or eight teenagers escaped the cold in the basement of a two-story, red-brick duplex on Grand Avenue, goofing around an old television in the laundry room. On Thursday, the smell of iron clung to the cold floor where the blood of two boys shot in the head, one dead and the other hospitalized, had dried in thick streaks on the cement.
Hysterical, angry and distraught, witnesses — including the mother of two girls who live in the duplex — said Thursday that none of the kids should have been down there, especially not a boy suspected of entering through a side door and bringing a gun into the Highland Square home. That boy's mother could not be reached.
Arnez Kendrick, 15, used the .38-caliber gun on himself, police said. Carried on a gurney out of the basement, a second boy — a 14-year-old attending Firestone High School — is clinging to life at Cleveland Clinic Akron General. How the kids got the gun is still under investigation, said Akron Police Lt. Rick Edwards.
Witnesses, who heard the story from two girls who live there, said the boys were not welcome in the home, and they and two other girls there were not supposed to be hanging out with them in the basement. But the adults said, they could not control kids they described as "acting the fool." Kendrick flashed the gun, which went off, striking the 14-year-old boy in the head. Then, from the other end of the basement, he shot himself in the head.
Kendrick was enrolled in Akron Public Schools' YMCA-operated Phoenix program for juveniles with behavioral, criminal and disciplinary issues.
"They shouldn't have been down there. They shouldn't have been down there," said Shakita Boyd, who lives in the second floor apartment with her two school-aged daughters. Her friend and aunt were there Thursday to comfort Boyd, who was sobbing and noticeably shaken.
Akron police apologized Thursday morning for an inaccurate report that both the teenage boys had died in the shooting.
"The Akron Police Department takes pride in only furnishing accurate information," the department said in a statement. "Last night we received inaccurate information from multiple reliable sources that both teens had died at the hospital. The department would like to apologize to the victims’ families. The department feels terrible for the families of the victims of this tragic event and our thoughts are with them during this difficult [time]."
The Summit County Medical Examiner identified Kendrick after an autopsy Thursday.
"The Akron Public Schools family, including the Akron School Board, is in mourning over the violence that claimed one student's life and has left another's in the balance. We offer prayers for the loved ones of these children," Superintendent David James said in a statement.
"Our crisis teams are assisting at the schools for as long as is necessary to help our students and staff through this difficult time," James continued. "I have been in contact with Mayor Dan Horrigan, and we will continue to work on ways to curb youth violence and the senseless loss of life among our young people.”
The shooting took place just after 7 p.m. "She's been asking them for months, 'Stay out of that basement,' " said Ashley Johnson, Boyd's friend. "They sneak through the side door," Johnson said of an east entrance that was forced open last year in a burglary.
It's unclear how all the kids got in, and whether they were invited by the girls who live there. Johnson and Boyd's aunt said when it's quiet, the women would hear the kids in the basement. Boyd would go down and kick them out. But she couldn't stop them from coming back.
"She's called the police on these kids many of times," said Boyd's aunt, who did not give her name.
Twice in June and twice in November, including the morning of the shooting, Shakita Boyd called Akron police on her daughter and her acquaintances.
In June, police investigated a loud noise complaint. The kids were yelling. In another call for a verbal altercation, Boyd said her 14-year-old daughter and her friends were smoking marijuana and being "unruly." The crowd left before police arrived.
At 7:37 a.m. Wednesday, less than 12 hours before the shooting, Shakita Boyd called police on a 15-year-old boy who sneaked in the house. The boy told Beacon Journal partner News 5 Cleveland that he was there just before and after the shooting. Earlier in November, Boyd told the cops her daughter tried to fight her.
"Now look what happened, a little boy has passed ... maybe two," Johnson said. "At the end of the day, they're teenagers. They're hard-headed. This is a lesson learned. It's sad."
Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 and firstname.lastname@example.org.