Former Coach Remembers Slain Beckley Basketball Player As An ‘Amazing Kid,’ Strong Student-Athlete
Friends and family of 18-year-old Dwayne Richardson Jr. held a vigil Wednesday afternoon in Beckley. Richardson was shot and killed on Sunday evening, according to Beckley Police. The ceremony came just one day before the Flying Eagles play in the West Virginia state high school basketball tournament.
Richardson was a junior at the school and a key player on the team. This week, fellow teammates, family, friends and an entire community are mourning his death. Roy Blankenship is a teacher at Beckley-Stratton Middle School. He was Richardson’s basketball coach in 8th grade.
“One of the neat things, and a lot of the other teachers have just been talking about, what an amazing kid he was and what a joy it was to have in class,” Blankenship said. “He loved to make people laugh. He was a very funny kid, and had really good grades. He was as good of a student as he was an athlete. Just a warm personality.”
Blankenship said it was shocking to hear that he died from a gunshot wound.
The Beckley shooting marks the second such tragedy in the Mountain State in the past month. Kelvin “KJ” Taylor, 18, and a beloved high school football player at Charleston’s Capitol High School, was shot and killed April 7 as he stood on the street on the city’s West Side.
Now another community is trying to understand the loss of a promising teenager to gun violence.
“It truly broke my heart,” Blankenship said of Richardson’s death. “I mean, it brought me to tears.”
Wilson goes into the state tournament ranked 8th after a scrappy season. Morgantown High School is ranked first.
“We had a lot of hopes with this team. They made an amazing turnaround. The season had gotten off to kind of a rocky start. They weren't doing very well and they've won several of their last games,” Blankenship said. “It's gonna be very hard to go up there and watch (the game) without him. I can't imagine what the players are going through. I'm sure they all want to win and do well for him, for his memory.”
The loss has also sent heartache through the entire community.
“Beckley is basketball and it's very devastating. I'm going up to the game tomorrow and I can't even imagine not watching him play,” Blankenship said. “He was one of the most exciting basketball players I've seen. He was a slasher, he just had a way of getting to the rim with the ball. He was a really good passer, really was a big lift for the team when he got in the game. All the boys, I've spoken with a few of them, are just devastated. They can't believe that, you know, he was a rock … and just a great kid.”
Wilson will play at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Charleston Coliseum.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Beckley Police announced the arrest of Jeriamyah Jacob Fortner of Beckley. According to a news release, police said Fortner, 20, was recklessly handling an AR-15 rifle and accidently shot Richardson. Fortner was charged with voluntary manslaughter and four counts of wanton endangerment.
WVPB will have more memorial stories about Dwayne Richardson Jr. in the coming days.
Reach reporter Jessica Lilly at firstname.lastname@example.org