'Choices destroy lives': Raleigh mother of NC A&T student killed at house party honors son's memory

Akilah Davis Image
Monday, April 10, 2023
Raleigh mother of NC A&T student killed at party honors son's memory
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Since her son's death Erika Taylor Jones has turned her pain into purpose by creating a memorial scholarship fund for college students

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The past two years haven't been easy for Erika Taylor Jones and her family who gathered in downtown Raleigh at the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network Memorial Garden. Each brick tells a story and is symbolic of the pain the victim's families have endured since their loved one died. Her son Jalen was shot and killed at a house party in Greensboro.

"I tell people he was fearfully and wonderfully made and I miss him," she exclaimed with compassion. "I don't think people realize how much we continue to suffer. People watch the news and they say that's one event. This is an epidemic."

Her words are what a mother's pain looks and sounds like. Her son, Jalen Scott Dunston, was an 18-year-old freshman nursing student at North Carolina A&T.

Since his death, police have arrested four suspects. Her mother, Ophelia, attended every court appearance and wears a hoody with a collage of his photos on it so everyone knows he was loved. On Monday the fourth suspect, Bruce Stewart, appeared before a judge for a bond hearing. His bond remained at $1.2 million.

"I think about Jalen all the time. I cry a lot. Not as much because I feel like God is healing me. I don't want to get stuck at his death because there's so much about him to remember," Ophelia Marcus-Taylor said of her grandson.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, gun violence continues to claim the lives of many children across the country. In fact, homicides are one of the leading causes of death among those ages 15 to 19.

More teens have reported carrying a gun for non-recreational purposes. That totals 1 in 15 boys and 1 in 50 girls.

"Hopefully, people will see how choices can destroy lives," said Jones.

Since his death, Jones has turned her pain into purpose by creating a memorial scholarship fund for college students. If he were alive, he would be a junior student in college.

As she walked the Memorial Garden one final time, she was reminded of the pain that she lives with every day. It's something she and the other victim's families have in common.

"This park is full. This isn't everyone's name. There's so many victims," she said.