Teen killed in gunfire outside birthday party

June 6, 2011 6:40:58 AM PDT
A shooting outside a birthday party Sunday left Ryan Royall, 17, dead and another teen wounded.

Royall was a standout basketball player.

On Sunday, friends and family were mourning his death and asking why it happened.

Royall had just finished his junior year at Hillcrest High School.

The shooting occurred just before 1 a.m. outside the Ho Chunk Sports and Expo Center in south suburban Lynwood after a fight broke out. Royall was leaving the facility at the time.

Investigators have ruled the death of Ryan Royall a homicide.

At this hour, police have not said if they have made any arrests or have anyone in custody for the teen's slaying.

Meanwhile, those who knew and loved the Country Club Hills teen are remembering him as someone who was wise beyond his years.

Friends say he was trying to secure an athletic scholarship so his widowed mother would not have to worry about paying for his college education.

"He's my brother. This wasn't supposed to happen to him," said Olajuwan Harris, a friend of Ryan Royall.

Family and a community converged at the house of the teen's mother just hours after he was shot while attending an acquaintance's 16th birthday party.

"We're holding on. This is a Christian family all the way around so God's got us, but it's not easy," said Valerie Dixon, the victim's godmother.

Witnesses say it was as Royall and some friends got into his car that gunshots erupted from a fistfight at the other end of the parking lot.

Everyone ran for cover.

Jayone Troutman says that when the shooting stopped, he discovered his friend had been shot at least once in the back.

"We get over to him he's trying hard to breathe," said Troutman. "He's breathing a little bit, but he's bleeding and we just don't know what to do. We called an ambulance, and they couldn't figure out where we was. We really didn't even know where we were. It just took so long - by the time they got there, he wasn't breathing no more."

Royall was later pronounced dead at an area hospital while a second teen was wounded.

Authorities say 300 to 500 people were at the location which had been rented out for the Saturday celebration.

Police have not released a motive for the crime, but some in the victim's neighborhood say they don't believe Royall was the target.

"Just a random shooting," said Royall's neighbor Fernando Howard. "An innocent bystander gets shot in the back and loses his life."

Royall had just finished his junior year at Hillcrest High School, where he was a standout guard for the school's basketball team. He was also on a summer league team.

Royall's coach, Don Houston, said Royall hoped to play in college and had gotten the attention of some recruiters.

"He's a very talented player," said Houston. "He was going to end up being one of our captains this year."

Friends say that in addition to a career in the NBA, Royall had also hoped to get a degree in sports medicine.

Royall's family said Sunday they do not want revenge, but they hope someone who knows something about the killing comes forward so they can find closure.

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