Dasan Jones, a magnet student at Glen Burnie High School and an accomplished violin player, was “always so nice to everybody.”
That’s what his friend Erika DiDonato said about the 15-year-old, who was found dead in the home of his stepfather, a Baltimore Police officer, in Curtis Bay on Tuesday.
Erika said she had known Jones since they both attended Solley Elementary School in Glen Burnie. They were also classmates at George Fox Middle School and would hang out in class or around school until the pandemic hit when they were in eighth grade.
“If you needed help with an assignment or something, he would always be willing to help out. When he would come into class, I remember he would always be smiling and coming over to me and the friends I sat with and making jokes,” she said.
A letter from Glen Burnie High School Principal Scott McGuire was sent Thursday to families at the school informing them of Dasan’s death. His stepfather, Eric G. Banks Jr., faces charges of assault and resisting arrest, stemming from an attempt to grab the gun of an Anne Arundel County police officer responding to the scene. The cause of Dasan’s death is still under investigation, police say.
In the letter, Dasan was described as a quiet student. He had just finished his freshman year in Glen Burnie’s BioMedical Allied Health program, which is a magnet program, and was excited by the possibilities it offered, according to McGuire.
“He was articulate, proactive, and responsible. He took great pride in his academics and enjoyed being in the BMAH program,” the letter said.
English teacher Tabitha Brobst said that she always asks her students, “any questions, comments, or concerns?” before excusing them from class. She said she would get one question if she was lucky. But one day, Dasan asked her a question.
“Dasan decided to ask me what my favorite kind of cheese was,” Brobst wrote in a statement. “That led to him and several other students asking me questions about what I like and what I had planned for the weekend and other random things they thought of. Every class from then on out ended with a random question.”
She called him a “lovable student.”
“In a year where virtual learning seemed to separate students, Dasan helped to bring our class together and make me remember that there were kind souls and fun kids on the other side of that computer screen,” she wrote.
Jones was also a violin player and earned a seat on the All-County Orchestra in eighth grade, according to the letter.
Erykah Graham became friends with Jones while they were in middle school.
“I wanted him to come to Northeast, but he said the reason why he wants to go to Glen Burnie is because of the nursing program. He wanted to become a nurse,” said Erykah, a 15-year-old rising sophomore at Northeast.
Erykah said they never got the chance to hang out outside of school, but they would Facetime. Jones even taught her how to cook French toast and crepes while they were on Facetime together.
“He was a very loyal friend. He had my back on things,” she said.
A GoFundMe for Dasan’s family was started Wednesday by someone who wrote she also went to school with him. Almost $2,400 has been raised as of Thursday afternoon.
“He had such a good soul,” the description read, saying the money will be used for funeral expenses and extra cash for his family. The beneficiary of the fundraiser is Dasan’s mother.
McGuire wrote in the letter that the school has been in touch with Jones’ family to offer support. There are also resources for students impacted by Jones’ death.
“Even though school is out for the summer, I want to make sure you know that our school counselors and other members of the Student Services team are available to speak with any students who have a need to talk about their feelings and the impact of Dasan’s death,” the letter said.
Other teachers at Glen Burnie remember Jones as an “absolute light,” like art teacher Victoria Gottlieb.
Toward the end of the school year, Gottlieb and her students did cicada nature journaling, according to a statement she wrote. Dasan brought in a live cicada, which he named Jimmy, to use as part of his artwork.
“Dasan made a little bed for Jimmy out of some breakfast pastry he didn’t eat so that Jimmy would have a comfy stay during the class period, and then Dasan returned Jimmy back to a tree in the courtyard after class. Dasan was a gentle, wonderful person and this story just sticks out in my mind.”
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Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.