Freddie Gray circle suffered another loss day before Goodson acquittal

#FreddieGray friend "Zelly" killed near Gilmor homes day before police verdict.

As news of the acquittal of a Baltimore police officer in the death of Freddie Gray spread Thursday, some of Gray's friends silently mourned a more recent loss — the death of their friend Donzell Canada.

Canada, one of Gray's close friends, was fatally shot Wednesday near Gilmor Homes in West Baltimore.

He was Baltimore's 127th homicide victim of the year.

Canada, 29, known as "Zelly" in the neighborhood, lived on North Fulton Avenue and was often seen around Gilmor Homes with Gray and friends.

Canada said in an interview last year that Gray was his childhood friend and one of more than 10 people he knew who have died in recent years.

Police responded to the shooting at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at Presstman Street and North Fulton Avenue, where they found Canada and a 16-year-old boy with gunshot wounds. The boy survived.

When asked last year about how he coped with Gray's death, Canada said: "Honestly, I didn't know how to feel because I've lost a lot of friends on these same streets, and I'm kind of getting numb — not numb, but it's not a surprise."

Before Gray died, he and Canada had been job hunting online, looking at construction companies. But they weren't getting any traction, Canada said.

Gray had been convicted of narcotics offenses around Gilmor Homes. Canada said Gray's small-time drug dealing was how "he put food in his mouth and whoever else around who needed it."

"It's not the life he chose or wanted," Canada said. "He was trying to escape and overcome it."

Canada spoke to The Baltimore Sun last August as he marked what would have been Gray's 26th birthday.

"There was no limit to what he would do for his friends," Canada said of Gray as he and several other friends held a cookout at Gilmor. They also visited Gray's gravesite and then watched the movie "Straight Outta Compton."

Pictures of Canada, Gray and their friends blanket Gray's Instagram site. One of the last pictures Gray posted was of him with Canada.

The Rev. Rodney Hudson, a pastor at nearby Ames Memorial United Methodist Church, knew Canada and Gray and remembered them both as humorous and loyal friends.

Canada and Gray "were all for one, one for all," he said.

Hudson said he was shocked by the news of Canada's death, even though such shootings are all too common in West Baltimore.

"A lot of their group has gotten killed," Hudson said.

He remembered seeing Canada and Gray in the neighborhood and said they would sometimes come over for soup at the church.

The morning Gray was arrested and transported to a hospital, Canada said, he was on his way to a doctor's appointment with his daughter.

"I was shocked, but I didn't think it was serious," he said.

But when he and his friends arrived at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, they learned that Gray had arrived unconscious without a heartbeat.

"How can you go from walking into a vehicle being able to speak to arriving at a hospital without a heartbeat?" he asked. "I don't understand."

A little more than a year later, Canada would arrive at the same hospital. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter, according to police reports.

Before he died, Canada said there were two things he hoped people would take away from Gray's death: "Black Lives Matter and just cherish every day, because tomorrow is not promised."

Canada's relatives could not be reached for comment.

Police ask anyone with information about his killing to call homicide detectives at 410-396-2100 or, to remain anonymous, Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP.

crentz@baltsun.com

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