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13-year-old shot while raking leaves is on life support, feared brain dead

Eighth-grader Jayz Agnew was outside his home when he was struck by gunfire

Jayz Agnew, right, with his parents and 6-year-old sister. (Courtesy of Juanita Agnew)
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Jayz Agnew has always wanted to be an emergency room doctor when he grows up. But on Tuesday, the 13-year-old arrived at the hospital with a bullet through his head, shot in his front yard while raking leaves for his family.

Jayz was on life support two days later, his mom said, preparing to undergo two separate tests that would determine if he was brain dead. The doctors thought he was, Juanita Agnew said. All Agnew, a nurse herself, could think to do was pray.

The shooting happened around 5:20 p.m. in the Hillcrest Heights area of Prince George’s County. Police have not said if Jayz was targeted, nor have they made an arrest in his shooting. Agnew said she has always felt safe in her neighborhood, and cannot imagine why anyone would want to hurt her son.

“Knowing who he is, I don’t think he would be able to cause anyone to be angry at him to the point of wanting to take his life,” Agnew, 36, said. “He was just being obedient. I asked him to rake the leaves.”

Agnew described Jayz, an eighth grader, as a shy boy who keeps his circle of friends small. He tried out for the middle school basketball team, but, despite his height, didn’t quite make the cut. Instead, he spends most of his time playing video games or hanging out with his 6-year-old sister, Aaliyah. The siblings found stray cats in their shed last year and decided to raise them together. Jayz named his Dawn, and Aaliyah named hers Lily. The four like to cuddle together on the couch.

Jayz is known around the house for his distinct tastes. He loves Takis, a specific brand of tortilla chips, but only the purple and blue bags. He definitely does not want the red ones because those are too spicy. The 13-year-old also always prefers to be barefoot. Whenever the family ventures out of the house, he runs to their car without shoes on, clutching his sneakers in his hand.

He is playful, too. Agnew said her son often hides her belongings around the house and watches gleefully as she hunts for her phone or wallet. Then, with a big smile, he brings her the item and says: “There you go! I’m just kidding.”

Agnew sometimes gets annoyed with his antics. To that, Jayz retorts: “It’s not a big deal, Mom.”

Jayz had just started studying for the PSAT.

On Monday, the boy stayed home from school for a countywide day of “asynchronous learning.” He did homework and helped out around the house, said his mom, which included raking the leaves in the backyard. Agnew said she was “fussing with him” because he did not bag the piles of leaves. He claimed they had run out of bags, but she found plenty of supplies in the shed.

They sat down for family dinner that night, eating turkey wings, rice and green beans. Then, Agnew went to sleep. She left for work on Tuesday before Jayz woke up. She thought she would see her son the next night.

Instead, she got a phone call from her husband.

“Oh, my God,” he said, Agnew recalled. “Our son just got shot.”

The family met at the hospital, three bags of leaves still sitting on their yard.

Two days later, his little sister hovered by Jayz’s hospital bed, standing on her tippy toes.

“I love you,” she said to her brother, Agnew recalled.


The little girl turned to her mom.

“Can he hear me when I say that?”