KNOXVILLE (WATE) – On Friday Knoxville Police Department said they believe three males with possible ties to a gang fired into a crowd of kids preparing to celebrate the holidays.
Zaevion William Dobson, 15, jumped on top of three girls to shield them from the bullets. Dobson was killed, but Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said despite youth violence, Dobson was a success story.
Rogero said Dobson, a football player and sophomore at Fulton High School was not only involved in sports, but was a mentor to others through the 100 Black Men of Greater Knoxville chapter. The organization’s purpose it to serve as a catalyst to empower African American and other minority youth to reach their full potential.
Gallery: Remembering Zaevion William Dobson
“I hope we all pray for all family members and friends and neighbors who have been impacted today and recommit ourselves to working with all of our kids and our community to make sure that they have the opportunity for safe and healthy and hopeful lives,” she said at a press conference Friday morning.
Rob Black, Dobson’s coach, said he was “only a sophomore, but a very contagious young man who was very well liked by his peers and teachers.” Black, who also spoke at the press conference met with members of the Fulton High School Football team 11:30 p.m. Friday to talk about the shooting of their teammate.
“It’s going to be a tough time here as we leave from here and go meet with our football players,” said Black. “Probably 80 young men who are having to deal with this now.”
Black asked for prayers, not only for the Dobson family, but for Zaevion Dobson’s football family and for Fulton High School. “This is a fine, fine young man who is a success story,” he said. “And and I want to try to continue to celebrate the life that he had here and the impact that he made on his peers.”
Black says the community has been reaching out in support, even coaches and players from rival teams.
“So many local coaches and players from other teams and even teams we rival against on Fridays – everybody’s kind of in your corner when something like this happens.”
Friends say they’re shocked, devastated and left with questions hearing about his tragic death. The Knox County School System provided counselors during the day for students and teachers.
Friday was a quiet and somber day at Fulton High School. “Everyone looks different. Everyone acts different, even the teachers look and act different because he was so young,” said classmate Destiny Mabry.
Dobson’s friends held back tears while they remembered how funny and lighthearted he was.
“He was a really good spirit. He was a really good person. He was the kind of guy you want to be friends with,” said his friend Zyria Wells. “My heart is just heavy, especially for his family because him and his brother I feel like were two peas in a pod. And family meant everything to them.”
Friends say Dobson shined on the football field. “All Zae wanted to do was play football. That’s literally all he wanted to do,” said Mabry.
They’re heartsick because he had hopes of going pro. “It was his dream and somebody just took it. You don’t take a young life for no reason. He was innocent. He didn’t do nothing to nobody,” said Wells.
His friends are asking the community to put an end to gun violence and remember that one life lost is too many.
“He’s not going to come back and it just kind of gets me saying it out loud,” said Mabry.
“I say put the guns down because you’re taking innocent young lives and every life deserves to be had. They’re killing kids. They need to let them grow up. Let us grow up,” said Wells.
A candlelight vigil was held Friday night at Sam E. Hill Family Community Center. Dobson’s brother Zack was still in shock about what happened.
“When I found him on the porch and I picked him up and he was laying in my hands dead.”
Dozens of people attended the vigil where they lit candles, some placed in the shape of his football number 24.
“It was good to know he was willing to protect others, but then it was sad he had to give up his own life for it,” said friend Jaylin Posey.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been set.
A Gofundme page has been set up to help the family lay him to rest. For more information, click here.