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Damion Callery Jr., right, at his high school graduation. Callery was fatally shot outside his Montgomery County house on Saturday.
Damion Callery Jr., right, at his high school graduation. Callery was fatally shot outside his Montgomery County house on Saturday. (handout)

In May, Damion Callery Jr. changed his Facebook profile picture to one of himself at his high school graduation. The 18-year-old wore a maroon gown and matching cap, a yellow sash draped over his shoulders. He smiled wide behind dark sunglasses. He was so excited to go to college that weeks before starting, he updated his status to say, “Studies at Bowie State University.”

He planned to major in business or marketing, and was preparing to leave for school at the end of this week. Now, instead of sending him off to college, his family has begun to plan the teen’s funeral. Callery was shot to death early Saturday outside his Montgomery County home.

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A suspect and motive remained unknown Sunday, as Montgomery County police had provided no new details in the case. Callery, they had previously said, was shot around 3:45 a.m. Saturday in the backyard of his family’s Burtonsville rowhouse. He then ran inside, where he died.

On Sunday, family and friends gathered in the front yard to share stories and photos of a young man they described as kind, studious and deeply devoted to his parents and three younger brothers.

“A shining light,” said Damion Callery Sr., his eyes vacant, his voice weary.

Callery Sr. and his wife, Cherrell, were immensely proud of their son, whom they often extolled on Facebook. In 2017, when she announced that her son had been accepted into a college prep program, Cherrell wrote that “words can’t express how we feel.”

In June, on the third anniversary of the father and son’s friendship on the social networking site, Callery Sr. posted a photo of his son. “I love you,” he wrote. For his son’s 18th birthday a few days later, he shared an old photo of the young man in his Paint Branch High School football uniform.

“His future is Super Lit,” his dad wrote.

A month later, when he dropped his son off at school for orientation, Callery Sr. wrote that he was “Super Proud,” and when someone asked if the moment had made him cry, he replied: “Did that already.”'

Mostly a homebody, the younger Callery often played basketball at a nearby park with his brothers and enjoyed sports and funny movies, especially with Will Ferrell and Ice Cube, his family said. He also adored music, and had begun to write and record his own rap songs.

And who was his favorite rapper?

“Himself,” one of his younger brothers answered, laughing.

Callery made good grades and had never gotten into trouble, said his family, who didn’t understand why someone would want to hurt him. Their neighborhood, his dad said, was typically quiet, but drugs and violence had begun to spread from another street a few blocks away.

As his family members lingered on Sunday outside the home where he’d been killed, they swore that his death would not be for nothing. They wanted to talk about what a fine young man he was, but more than that, they insisted that his killing — “for no reason whatsoever,” one of them said — bring attention to gun violence, something that his grandmother called “a plague in our community.”

“This,” his aunt Sheila Carter said, “was a martyr’s death.”

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