Friends Of Slain Beckley Teen Dwayne Richardson Jr. Mourn Loss, Remember His Humor, Positive Spirit
Dwayne Richardson, Jr., a junior at Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley was the recent victim of an accidental shooting death. Beckley Police say Richardson was killed Sunday by a 20 year old who was careless with an AR-15 rifle.
Now, heartache is ringing in the halls of Woodrow Wilson High School in Raleigh County as loved ones mourn the death of their friend.
“It's been pretty bad, really, I ain't going to lie,” longtime friend Josiah “JoJo” Harriston said. “It's been a hard week for me. Especially every time I go into class. I had been just missing him in there with me, talking, cracking jokes, everything.”
Dwayne or Wayne as many of his friends called him, was well known in the region. Harriston met Wayne in the third grade. They played basketball together. He and many who knew Dwayne say he was a genial and good-natured person.
“Nobody could really get mad at him,” Harriston said. “It's like, for him to die that way. It's, it's ridiculous to me.”
Beckley police confirmed that Richardson died in an accidental shooting. On late Wednesday afternoon they arrested Jeriamyah Jacob Fortner of Beckley. He’s accused of recklessly handling an AR-15 rifle and accidentally shooting Richardson. Fortner is charged with voluntary manslaughter and four counts of wanton endangerment.
“Nobody should die that way and Dwayne would be the last person I'd ever think would die that way,” Harriston said.
Harriston said he was watching a movie when he heard the tragic news from his friend Rashad.
“Rashad called me and said, he was crying and stuff and was like Dwayne had got shot, and I was like, I was like, confused,” Harriston told West Virginia Public Broadcasting. “Right when he told me and I started believing that he got shot, I just broke down in tears. That was just off him getting shot.”
According to Lt. David Allard, Beckley police were responding to the report of a shooting when they were flagged down by a vehicle whose occupants were transporting Richardson to the hospital.
“They were friends, acquaintances that he had been with earlier in the day,” Allard said. “We have been speaking with them. We have went to the area where this has reported to have occurred.”
Allard, chief of detectives at the Beckley Police Department, says he also knew Richardson, but not because of his police work. Richardson was a talented athlete and star basketball player. Allard had watched him play in games over the years.
“So there's the human element there that we don't always have a connection with the victims,” Allard said. “Anytime you have a loss of life, it's tragic. When you have someone at this age in your life, three weeks from graduation and state tournament this week in Charleston, it’s extremely tough to deal with and you can’t really set that aside.”
Woodrow Wilson sophomore Ella Rose met Richardson in middle school.
“He can make anyone laugh, it didn't matter what mood they were in, he would say something, and the whole room would crack up,” Rose said. “Like it was, it was just something different. And I think everybody's noticed that and everyone's saying that. But that's just really how it was.”
She and Harriston say people couldn’t help but like Richardson for his positive personality.
“He had a great smile. He was so calm, you know? Anybody could get along with him. Really. He's just just a great person in general,” she added.
Richardson’s former basketball coach Roy Blankenship says the skilled athlete made good grades, got along well with his teachers and coaches, and had a bright future ahead of him.
“Wayne was just one of those kids I told him if you keep working the way you’re working, keep your grades up, you’ll get a scholarship to play ball,” Blankenship said. “I knew he would get one and be able to go to college.”
As the community mourns and reflects on Richardson’s life, one of his friends, Tauvea Davis, is trying to cope with his death by honoring him with a song. He wrote it the day he found out Richardson didn’t make it.
In the coming weeks, as those close to Richardson look for ways to deal with his sudden, violent death, Rose hopes the nightmare of losing a friend won’t be worsened by divisions or conflict within the community.
“We really all just have to stay together because that's all we really can do,” Rose said. “It's going to do no one good at Woodrow to separate and to start all this drama.”