At age 13, he was an avid volunteer who wanted to be a pastor and an engineer. A stranger’s bullets destroyed those dreams

by -90 Views

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series profiling American youth killed this year by guns, a leading cause of death of children in the US. Read more about the project here.


The light blanket of dust covering Charles DuBose’s black cherry motorcycle belies the grandfather’s meticulous care of his prized Harley Davidson.

But he refuses to disturb the handprints and fingerprints pressed into the dust. They belong to Deshon DuBose, a 13-year-old honor roll student who loved riding on the back seat of his grandpa’s Harley and couldn’t wait until he was old enough to be up front.

But that day will never happen.

On a cold Saturday in January, Deshon spent the last night of his life roller skating with the new skates his grandfather had just bought him for Christmas. As Deshon and his friends were leaving the Cascade Family Skating rink in Atlanta, a fight broke out among another group outside, a law enforcement source told CNN.

Gunfire erupted, the source said, and the teenager was struck by two bullets never meant for him.

Deshon died the next day, ending a young life devoted to community service and shattering his dreams of becoming an engineer and also a pastor – just like his grandfather.

“The hardest part is him never becoming the man we know he could be,” said Charles DuBose, who served as Deshon’s father figure and helped raise him.

His family’s anguish is shared by a staggering number of families across the country. So far this year, more than 1,300 children and teens have been killed by gunfire in the US, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Firearms became the No. 1 killer of US children in 2020, surpassing motor vehicle accidents, which had long been the leading cause of death among America’s youth.

“This is not a trend that should continue to go on,” said Deshon’s cousin Novella Edwards. “That’s a parent’s worst nightmare, is their child not coming home. And when his mom sends him off to go skating, you expect to get your son back the same way he went.”

Gun violence is an epidemic in the US. Here are 4 things you can do today

Despite his age, Deshon was a prolific volunteer. He hauled groceries for strangers who looked like they needed a hand and helped elderly neighbors with projects around their houses.

Deshon DuBose volunteers at a food drive. He enjoyed helping people who were less fortunate, his mother said.

“Ask anyone who knows him and they’ll tell you how much of a respectful, well-mannered leader Deshon was (wherever) he went,” family friend Melissa Cruz wrote on a GoFundMe page benefiting the family.

“From his teachers to the parents of his friends, he was well-known and never in a negative light. He spent his afternoons at the YMCA, volunteered in the community, and was never one to shy away from helping anyone in need, whether he knew them or not.”

Indeed, Deshon’s death gripped so many in his community that the funeral home reached full capacity, his grandfather said. Some mourners had to be turned away and attended the services for him outside.

Losing a child to gun violence is the kind of tragedy Charlett DuBose often had heard about in the news. She never imagined her own family would experience that same horror.

Read other profiles of children who have died from gunfire

Just two months before his death, Deshon had been devastated to learn about a 12- and a 15-year-old killed by gunfire at a popular Atlanta shopping district, his mother said.

Charlett and Deshon DuBose celebrate Christmas in 2022. They had no idea it would be their last Christmas together.

Now, the reality of losing her only son is like a nightmare that never ends.

“I do have my days … every day, nonstop, thinking about him,” Charlett DuBose said.

Even the sight of children going to school can overwhelm her with grief.

More about Deshon DuBose

  • • Died January 22
  • • Age 13
  • • Shot outside a roller skating rink when a fight broke out among others on January 21, Atlanta police said
  • • A juvenile was arrested and charged as an adult with murder in Deshon’s death, the law enforcement source and the suspect’s attorney said. The suspect has pleaded not guilty, and a trial date has not been set, the attorney said
  • • Two other juveniles suspected of firing shots at the scene are at large, the source told CNN
  • “That would break my heart … seeing the babies going to school, and my baby can’t attend school anymore,” the mother said.

    Deshon excelled in school, always making the honor roll and winning awards for social studies, reading, writing and piano.

    And he knew exactly what he wanted to do when he grew up.

    “He never talked about anything else but being a pastor and an engineer,” Deshon’s mother said.

    The child’s academic prowess was so strong, he joked he might go to college before his sister Maya, who’s five years older. Despite the age gap, Maya and Deshon were virtually inseparable, and she vividly recalls the day he was born:

    “I see my brother and I hold my brother for the first time,” said Maya, now 18. “Ever since, I’ve been holding him. He’s been attached to everything.”

    Maya DuBose said she misses her brother's smile and creating impromptu dance videos with him.

    But now, Maya can’t hold Deshon in her greatest time of need – navigating life without him. She thinks about and misses him “every day, all day.” So she finds her own way of staying attached to him.

    “Ever since my brother’s been gone, I’ve been in his room, sleeping in there. And I hear him saying, ‘Maya, I’m OK. I’m OK,’” she said.

    Such reassurances helped give Maya the strength to graduate high school and start college on time – feats Deshon worked so hard to achieve but will never get to accomplish himself.

    “I went to college first,” Maya said. “I did it for my brother.”

    In a few weeks, Deshon’s family members should be celebrating his birthday. Instead, they’re at a loss about how to mark November 20; there’s no guide for how to commemorate such a first since a child’s death.

    “We’re thinking about going to the cemetery to see him for his 14th birthday,” his mother said.

    Deshon’s birthday usually is also the prelude to a wave of joyous family holidays – none of which will be the same again.

    Deshon DuBose spent every other weekend at his grandfather's house east of Atlanta, where he loved riding an ATV and playing the keyboard and drums.

    “This will be a harder year because that’s also the week of Thanksgiving,” Edwards said. “It’s around the holiday time. And I know from experience that a lot of the first holidays after a death so close is very hard.”

    Deshon’s sister said she plans to visit her brother’s graveside for his 14th birthday.

    “But after that, I might ask my mom, ‘Can I sit at the cemetery and talk to him for a minute?’ Because it still don’t feel real, having my brother gone,” Maya said.

    “It’s been eight months since he’s been gone. It still don’t feel real to me.”


    No More Posts Available.

    No more pages to load.