‘His smile was amazing’: Loved ones remember T.J. High student shot, killed near Gilpin Court

‘His smile was amazing’: Loved ones remember T.J. High student shot, killed near Gilpin Court

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Loved ones of a Richmond teen gunned down near Gilpin Court are speaking out over what they call a senseless death.

Police got the call Wednesday just before midnight. When they arrived, they found two people in an alley. One of them was 17-year-old Joseph Johnson who attended Thomas Jefferson High School. The teenager did not survive his injuries.

As police search for a killer, those who knew Johnson are holding on to memories of a teenager who was just beginning to live.

“He’s the community kid. Everyone loved him. Jo Jo loved everybody,” Donte McCutchen said.

Talking a stroll through the neighborhood park, McCutchen reminisced at the site where his 17-year-old cousin spent a lot of time as a child.

“The jokes. The laughter. Him saying ‘if you let me drive the car, I’ll go to church with you,’ bargaining with me, having a good time,” he recalled.

The T.J. High Junior enjoyed sports, dancing and learning how to work on cars. Johnson and a man were both shot Wednesday night on St. Paul Street near the teenager’s home in Gilpin Court. Joseph died at the hospital.

“It really hurt,” McCutchen added.

“This bothers me really bad,” Jeff Jackson said.

He mentored Joseph when he was a little boy through a program by Alpha Phi Alpha at Carver Elementary School, a program specifically for boys in 4th and 5th grade.

“To get them to think about academics and their future and give them resources and hope…He was funny, very charismatic. He supported his friends. He cared about the other kids that weren’t as strong as he was,” Jackson said.

Jackson wanted to see him finish high school. Sadly, that won’t happen.

“We should be valuing our lives. With everything that’s going on, there’s no value,” he said.

But there are memories that can't be forgotten.

“He was getting ready for his 8th-grade prom and his mom called and said, ‘I need you to help Jo Jo find something to wear.’ Then Jo Jo calls and he’s like, ‘cousin Dante, can you help me find something to wear. I’m wearing blue. I have to go to the prom'. His smile was infectious. I’m telling you, his smile was amazing…He smiled through it all,” McCutchen said.

A day after Joseph was killed, a man and woman were shot a couple of miles away near Mosby Court. The woman survived. The man did not. Police have not mentioned motives or whether the crimes are connected. Anyone with information can call crime stoppers at 804-780-1000.

Thomas Jefferson High School released the following statement:

It is with a heavy heart that I share with you that our student, Joseph Johnson, lost his life. We are devastated by this loss and extend our deepest condolences to his parents and family members during this time. Joseph, a very charismatic young man, was a rising Junior at Thomas Jefferson High School. His big personality and warm smile captured the hearts of many in our TJ family. He will truly be missed. Please continue to keep Joseph’s family and the Viking family in your thoughts and prayers.

RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras also sent a statement to the school community.

“I’ve now written some version of this sentence dozens of times as Superintendent. I beg of you, regardless of which political party you call home, please support candidates this November who will enact common-sense gun control legislation,” Kamras said. “Our students’ lives literally depend on it.”

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