Family says shooting that left 21-year-old Carver track coach dead, two cousins charged was terrible accident

Family says fatal shooting among cousins a tragic accident

When Deyquawn Cooper wasn't coaching track at Carver Vocational Technical High School or pedaling around the city as a bike messenger, he was usually with his two cousins, Shaquilla Boykins and Saiquan White.

Cooper, 21, fell right between the other two in age — Boykins is 25, White 18. They lived across the street from one another on a West Baltimore block where several other members of their family also live, and were extremely close, said Luther Jones, 63, who is Boykins' and White's grandfather and Cooper's great-uncle.

"They were like brothers and sister, that's how close they were," Jones said. "That's how tight of a family we are."

Now, however, the family is struggling to cope with a new reality, one they say was the result of a terrible accident. Last week, Cooper was fatally shot, and Boykins and White, who are siblings, were charged Thursday in his killing — Boykins with second-degree murder and felony use of a handgun, and White with possessing a gun and accessory after the fact in Cooper's death.

"Both situations are tough," William Cooper, Deyquawn's father, said of his son's death and Boykins' and White's arrests. "The whole thing could have been prevented."

Deyquawn had a good head on his shoulders, working four jobs and always helping others with whatever they needed, his father said.

He said he never thought his son would end up on Baltimore's rapidly growing list of homicide victims. Neither did others who knew him.

"He's just one of those good kids: hard-working, never in trouble, positive role model," Carver Principal Shionta Somerville said.

Somerville recruited Cooper to be the girls track coach late last year after he stopped in to visit his father, a culinary arts teacher at the school. She recognized the young man from her days as an assistant principal at Edmondson-Westside High School, from which Cooper graduated.

"You probably don't get much better than him," she said.

The family lived in proximity to one another in the 1800 block of Penrose Ave., in the city's Franklin Square neighborhood.

According to charging documents, police responded to Boykins and White's home about 9:52 p.m. last Wednesday for a report of a shooting. They found Cooper inside with a gunshot wound. He was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was pronounced dead about 2:30 a.m. He was the city's 250th homicide victim this year.

Detectives took Boykins and White to the homicide unit for questioning, where they waived their rights to remain silent and agreed to discuss what happened. But their accounts changed over the course of the interview, the documents say. And neither would say what happened to the gun.

According to charging documents, the three were hanging out together and drinking alcohol when Boykins went upstairs to the bathroom. When she came downstairs, she "recognized that there was a handgun seated on the dining room table" of the home.

"Ms. Boykins picked up the handgun and proceeded to walk into the kitchen where Mr. White and Cooper were; with the handgun in her hand," the documents read. "Ms. Boykins advised she was going to inquire into why the gun was on the dining room table or in the house at all when the handgun discharged while it was still in her hand."

According to the documents, Boykins immediately dropped the gun to the floor. White tried to lift Cooper to put him in a vehicle and take him to the hospital, but he was too heavy.

White, the documents say, eventually admitted the gun was his, but initially provided "numerous inaccurate accounts," including that an unknown person had kicked in the back door of the home and shot Cooper — which police described as "an effort to mislead the investigation away from his sister" and himself.

Boykins and White "admitted to being the only people in the house" besides Cooper at the time of the shooting, the documents say, but both denied "knowing where the unidentified handgun was moved after the shooting." Police said those statements "suggest that both Mr. White and Ms. Boykins were working together to withhold or hide material evidence."

The medical examiner determined Cooper's death was a homicide, and Boykins and White were arrested. Police and prosecutors said the charges were based on the evidence of the case. They would not say whether the charges would have been different if Boykins and White had cooperated fully.

"As in all cases, prosecutors rely on the facts presented to them to determine the charges," Rochelle Ritchie, a spokeswoman for Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, said in a statement. "If the pending investigation reveals additional information, it is always considered in what charges we proceed upon."

Neither Boykins nor White had an attorney listed in online court records, and neither has an adult criminal history in Maryland, according to online records. A preliminary court hearing for both is scheduled on Oct. 28.

Jones, who has lived on Penrose Avenue all his life, said he wishes police and prosecutors would view the incident as an accident for the family to sort out.

"When it happened, everyone was distraught as to how it happened and why it happened," he said. "Everybody feels as though it was an accident. They just want someone to tell the truth."

Cooper's father said he just wants police and prosecutors to "follow the proper protocol."

Somerville said that when she first heard that Cooper had died, she thought it had to be the result of an illness. "I know that sounds silly, but for a kid like that, you just don't connect it to any type of violence," she said.

When she recruited Cooper to coach the school's track team late last year, he was only 20, meaning he couldn't be a paid staff member. Still, he volunteered until his 21st birthday in February, even coming in on his off days to check on the squad, she said.

"When the girls were frustrating him, he would come to me and say, 'Ms. Somerville, these girls just don't want to work today,'" Somerville said, laughing at the memory of his commitment. "He was really patient with them."

The girls loved him in return, Somerville said, and took the news of his death "really hard," requiring her to call in a crisis team to help them deal with their emotions.

Since his death, there has been an outpouring of support for him on social media and at Carver, his father said. There was also a vigil in his memory on Tuesday night.

"He touched a lot of people," he said, "and he was only here for such a small time."

krector@baltsun.com

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