Daceion Sanders was big for his age.
At 15, he looked older and he acted older, too, so it wasn’t unusual for him to hang around older boys, his mother, Crystal Sanders-Johnson said.
She said she did what most mothers do: loved her son every day and tried to keep him out of harm’s way.
“I watched Daceion like a hawk,” Sanders-Johnson said Friday, a week after her son was shot to death along with 18-year-old Blaise Joshua Okale-Weeks.
“I stayed on him and I explained the importance of him being in school, the importance of minding the company you keep and as far as always being positive and always doing right. And that’s what I tried to instill in him each and every day. ... Even when you’ve done all that, you still can't pass by the inevitable.”
Sanders and Okale-Weeks were killed about 4:30 p.m. Feb. 22 inside Apt. B at 1808 Kennedy Circle, a unit in the Kearney Park housing complex, not far from J.H. Rose High School, where Daceion was a sophomore and had played on the football team.
Two more teenagers, Raeshawn Lamont Reid, 18, 2104 E. Third St., and Dexter Javonta Daniels, 19, 1803 Hopkins Drive, were arrested in the killings. Both are charged with murder and are jailed under $4 million bonds in the Pitt County Detention Center.
Reid was enrolled in the Pitt Academy, Pitt County Schools’ alternative program, according to the school system. Daniels withdrew from J.H. Rose in January 2017.
Funeral services for Sanders, who lived with his family in the New Town neighborhood on West 14th Street, are scheduled in Greenville today. The funeral for Okale-Weeks, who was from the Raleigh area, are in Chapel Hill today.
The Greenville Police Department has released few details about the killings including how the four came to be in the apartment. Sanders-Johnson said her son had friends who lived in Kearney Park but she does not know what led to the shooting or why her son was killed. She said she did not know Okale-Weeks and did not know Reid and Daniels well.
That morning she was home sick from work and Daceion was worried about her and encouraged her to rest and get better, she said. The two had a small argument over Sanders’ iPhone.
“He had broken his phone and he wanted a new iPhone but you know those newer iPhones are quite expensive. I was telling him, ‘I don’t really have the money for that. You’ll have a phone but it might not be an iPhone.’ And he said, ‘Well if it’s not an iPhone, I don’t want it.’ His last words,” Sanders-Johnson said.
With a 2 p.m. funeral at Philippi Church of Christ, Sanders-Johnson has spent the week picking out clothes for her child to be buried in, along with making burial arrangements and determining what type of music will be played at her son’s service.
“It’s been a terrible week,” she said. “You never want to believe that your child’s going to leave you ... He was so full of life, and it just hurts me to know that he’s not here anymore. And it really does something to me, so I’m just taking it one day at the time. I’m actually trying not to be as down and out but I have been. Because he was so upbeat. He didn’t like to be mad or to be sad, he didn’t like that. He was going to do something to get you out of the funk or what mood you were in. He kept you laughing, he was such a clown. He’s going to be missed so bad.”
Sanders loved to joke and play with his 10-year-old brother, Jhamir Johnson, their mother said. They jumped around and acted silly, had pillow fights and water fights and just acted like boys, she said.
Jhamir fought back tears Friday afternoon
“It’s been hard for me losing my brother because I really loved him,” he said. “We used to laugh and joke a lot. We used to play the (video) games sometimes and there was this one time me and him were upstairs and we thought of making a negro spiritual mixtape.
“ ... I still have the scent on his pillow. I have some of his clothes, some of his socks, he was wearing Champion shirts,” Jhamir said.
Johnson said he will best remember his brother for his love of football.
“The best thing I remember about him was when he was playing football for Rose. He used to do a lot of good things on the field. That’s what really reminds me of him,” he said.
He wasn’t on the team at the time of his death, but Sanders-Johnson said her son wanted to get back on it again.
“He was telling me he was going to do better with getting everything together and that he wanted to get back on the team. He was just going to school, being a regular teenager,” Sanders-Johnson said.
Sanders-Johnson also said that Sanders was excited about learning how to drive and would’ve been 16 in April.
“Love them each and every day to the fullest,” she said, “because you never know when it’s going to be your last. Talk to your children and find out what’s going on. I would talk to (Daceion) all the time just to get in his head and figure out what he had going on and what he might be thinking about. As teenagers, they don’t always run and tell mom everything. So, I’m sure there were a few things he didn’t always tell me. But I always kissed him and loved on him each and every day. He was like, ‘Mom’ but like I told him, ‘you’re my baby.’”
Contact Tyler Stocks at [email protected] or 252-329-9566.