By Shelby McAdams – News Editor
A celebratory weekend in California took a turn for the tragic as one visiting teenager was left dead and two students were injured after an off-campus party early Sunday morning.
Hampton University freshman Jeron Xavier Grayson was pronounced dead Sunday morning at approximately 2:42 a.m. while waiting to be transported by medical helicopter.
The man charged with the shooting that resulted in Grayson’s death is Monessen resident Keith Edward Jones who witnesses identified as the shooter and that he was involved in an earlier altercation that took place at the party that did not involve Grayson.
Party attendant Brook Patterson said there was complete chaos and even jumped from a window in distress from the shooting.
“Bullets were flying. People were just running over people. Everybody was trying to fend for themselves,” said Patterson. “Anyone could have been shot. I think I’m lucky. I was actually trying to go upstairs. I was about to leave, me and my sister. I think I’m pretty lucky. I could have been standing where he was shot.”
Jones had fled the scene while concealing a revolver handgun in the waistband of his pants. California Borough Police officers stopped to question him but Jones had run away from police.
Washington County District Attorney Steven M. Toprani had announced the charges against Jones Oct. 18 after state police had brought him to the Belle Vernon Barracks for further questioning.
Two others had been injured from the very same shooting. Both were students at California University of Pennsylvania and were treated at Mon Valley Hospital. The woman was hit with pieces of flying shrapnel and suffered some facial injuries while there are no details about the male student’s injuries.
Jones was then charged with a criminal homicide, two counts of aggravated assault, the discharge of a firearm into an occupied structure, recklessly endangering another person, and firearms not to be carried without a license.
He was arraigned in front of Monongahela Judge Mark Wilson and was then remanded to Washington County Facility without bond.
The University issued a campus-wide email as well as a campus text message alert concerning the shooting and that all should travel with caution when in the area.
As of press time the university had plans of holding a memorial vigil and walk beginning at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 21. The vigil was planned to take place by the Vulcan statue outside Herron Hall.
The vigil honors the memory of Jeron Grayson, a Hampton University student who died Oct. 17 in California Borough.
A short program will include music by the Young and Gifted Gospel Singers and the University Choir, followed by a candle-lighting ceremony. Then participants will walk down Second Street to Mechanic Street, where a prayer for unity will be given.
Students living off campus, and other members of the California community, are asked to turn on their porch lights in a show of support.
Participants will return to campus for an 8 p.m. program by speaker and author Will Keim, a longtime friend of the Cal U community.
Leadership in the 21st Century: Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, will begin at 8 p.m. in the Natali Student Center.
Clergy members who have expressed an interest in providing support will be available to talk with students individually or in small groups. Lisa McBride, University ombudsman, also will provide information about Cal U Men United, which offers support and addresses issues of concern to men of color.
Grayson’s father, Rev. Glenn Gryson, and sister Shinora Grayson spoke of how blessed they were to have had him in their life and how he left his mark on the world.
“He was a phenomenal athlete all around,” said Glenn Grayson. “Certified lifeguard at 16. He played on the basketball team for Schenley. He played, of course, ran track, and he ended his high school career as MVP at the championship. He had the big ring and was full of life.”
The university is encouraging all to attend the vigil and send out their condolences to Grayson’s family and friends durring this hard time.