Three girls who were shielded by a 15-year-old American football player caught in the crossfire of rival gangs have spoken about the horrific moment they realised their friend had be gunned down.
Zaevion Dobson was was with a group of friends and his brother on a porch in Knoxville, Tennessee when a group of men walked up and started shooting at them.
Police have since said they believe the shooting may have been gang-related and they just picked the group at random who were ‘just hanging out and trying to celebrate the holidays’.
Speaking to WVLT, one of the girls said she would have ‘probably been shot’ if Zaevion hadn’t run off the porch to cover her and two other girls, an act of huge courage.
Another girl said after the gunfire had finished she pulled on Zaevion, telling him to get up but he couldn’t move. That’s when they realised he may have sacrificed his own life saving theirs in this brutal shooting.
She said: “So I just went upstairs. By the time I came back to make sure everything was real, (I saw) he was shot in the head.” None of the girls shielded by Zaevion were harmed in the attack.
The shootings first began at around 7pm, as a group of men fired several rounds into a home, striking resident Lisa Perry, 46, in the lower back. She is expected to survive her ordeal.
According to Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, Perry’s 23-year-old son, Brandon, and several other men drove to the suburb where Dobson lived and fired multiple rounds in retaliation.
Brandon Perry died early Friday morning after he crashed a BMW into an apartment. Two men fled the wrecked car but were caught by police and questioned. One has since been released.
Christopher Bassett, 20, has been charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and violation of probation.
Rausch said: “These cowardly and senseless acts of violence must stop. We should be preparing to celebrate the Christmas holiday, but now we have two men who are dead.”
Police said they are still searching for three more gang members who are suspects. They believe five men in total all fired shots at Zaevion and his group of friends.
On Friday night, Zaevion’s family held a moving candlelit vigil for teenager and created a glowing ’24’ out of candles to honour his jersey number.
His brother, Zack, gave an emotional account of the moment when his brother died and how he tried to pick him up and shake him. He said: “I was like “I love you, wake up, I need you, wake up.”
He added football was his brother’s life. ‘That’s what he did. He came from school, did his homework, watched film, watched documentaries of it, players”, Zack told WVLT.
Fulton High School football coach Rob Black organised a team meeting to help his teammates grieve this tragedy and said many of them were hurting. He called Dobson a ‘fine, young man’, describing Zae as a natural born leader, who led others by example.
Zack left an emotional tweet about his brother and it’s utterly heart-wrenching…
All I can do is sit in this bed where he laid his head every night man ? life not gonna be the same without u ? @_zdobbs24 come back bruh
— Zack Dobson (@stn__zack) December 18, 2015
Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.