The victim's stepfather has been arrested on multiple counts of felony, but it is believed that he didn't shoot the teen.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on June 8, 2021. It has since been updated.
Trigger Warning: This story contains details of gun violence that may be disturbing to readers.
A 14-year-old boy who had accompanied his older brother to a graduation party in Woodbury, Minnesota, was shot dead. The tragic incident occurred earlier this month on June 5, around 10:44 pm, reports PEOPLE. Around the time of the incident, the Washington County dispatchers received multiple 911 calls with people screaming in the background, including one with "discernible information that someone had been shot," according to a statement from the Woodbury Police Department.
Immediately, officers were dispatched to a residential neighborhood where they found 30-40 people attending a graduation party in one of the homes in the area. "Witnesses stated that a white SUV was involved and fled the area. A dark SUV or truck is also believed to be involved," the police statement read.
Upon further investigation, it was revealed that a teenage boy was shot and had been transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. The victim, Demaris Nathan Hobbs-Ekdahl, didn't survive despite being rushed to the hospital. KARE reports that it is unclear what happened but Trisha Ekdahl, Demaris' mother, claims that the suspects threatened the victim's brother, Davion, with a gun at the party. "I don't know what to do. I lost my baby," Trisha told the news station.
The devastated mother said that her younger son had called her then, wanting to leave. "He was leaving the scene and they shot the car up and he told his older brother, 'I can't breathe. I can't breathe,'" Trisha said. Sadly, the mother didn't even get to say goodbye to her beloved son. "They didn't even let me say goodbye to him at the hospital. They took him straight to the morgue."
Apparently, several houses were struck by gunfire, though the residents inside were unharmed, according to authorities. "We believe that the shooters knew each other and that this was not a random act," Woodbury police said in the news release on the day of the shooting.
A 35-year-old man named Keith Dawson has been charged with several counts of felony, including drive-by shooting, illegal possession of a firearm, and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. However, it is believed that Dawson isn't the one that killed Demaris. A witness claimed that Dawson, who was driving a Chevy Tahoe, allegedly fired shots into a dark SUV. The occupants in the dark SUV returned gunfire, which hit Demaris in a separate car.
Fox 9 reports Dawson is actually the victim's stepfather, and he was the one who rushed him to the hospital. Dawson told the cops that the teen called him to say he and his brother were getting robbed and that they needed help. Dawson allegedly said he drove to the area with the intent of scaring the other group because they were “messing with his kids.” Dawson shot several rounds at a dark SUV and the group returned fire.
The stepfather claims he didn't know Demaris and others had followed him out to Edgewood Avenue in a Kia Forte. When shots were fired from the dark SUV, it hit the Kia and struck Demaris. When Dawson learned Demaris was injured, he immediately transferred him into his Tahoe and took him to a hospital. On the way, Dawson tossed his handgun out the window, which police later found.
The victim, a student at Tartan Senior High School in Oakdale, had finished his 9th grade recently. Family members remembering the young boy say he always had a smile on his face. "He's a good kid. He didn't deserve it. He wasn't in the streets. He wasn't a gang member. He didn't do nothing wrong. Nothing," Trisha said.
"Last night's shooting on Edgewood Avenue resulted in the tragic loss of a 14-year-old boy, and our hearts go out to his family," wrote Woodbury police spokesperson John Altman in an email the next day. "Detectives worked tirelessly through the night investigating the case and will continue to work on developing leads." Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help his family with funeral expenses.
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe/Help lay my nephew to rest