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Family, prosecutor speak out on anniversary of central Pa. man’s shooting death: ‘It needs to stop’
Patriot-News - 2/27/2023
James Jeter was out of gang life, leaving behind the Crips that had gotten him into trouble as a young man, according to his mother.
But on Feb. 27, 2019, Jeter was shot and killed by Lindley Thelismond, who was recently ordered to spend 50 years to life on the homicide conviction.
On Monday, Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf spoke to the media with Jeter’s parents to discuss how gun violence has left a family incomplete and ended two young lives.
Graf said Thelismond was from New York and came to Lebanon under gang protection and gang affiliation. Thelismond, who was 17 at the time, bought three illegal firearms while in central Pennsylvania.
Although Jeter was no longer in a gang, his parents said he was still hanging out with some friends who were, which is where he encountered Thelismond.
The shooting began during an argument between the two in the 1000 block of Orchard Avenue and left Jeter, 26, dead from gunshot wounds, according to police.
Thelismond ran away but was arrested hours later with one of the illegal guns he had purchased, which investigators tied to the killing.
Despite the successful prosecution, Graf said she knew a life sentence for Thelismond, now 21, would never bring Jeter back.
“Every year, that wound is ripped right open” for Jeter’s family, she said.
Jeter’s mother, Dusown Kennedy, said it took a lot when she lost a child.
“First of all, you don’t understand why you lose a child,” Kennedy said. “I have a hole in my heart I cannot fill.”
She remembered her son as always being respectful but getting involved with the wrong people. She would tell him: Just please do the right thing.
“At a certain age, you are responsible for your actions,” she said.
She said he had started the process of getting out and told his friends he was done but still hung out with them, and that led to the end of his life.
But now that he’s gone, she’s the one telling his young children why their daddy is still gone.
His father, Robert Kennedy, talked about how it is wrong that people are solving their problems with guns.
“It needs to stop,” Jeter’s father said. He talked about how it used to be: If two people had a problem they would go around the corner and work it out in whatever way worked. But they’d always come back.
Graf said Thelismond made a series of choices that led to the shooting.
She said parents need to give their kids structure and discipline but also help them understand the reality of gun use.
She said anytime someone picks up a gun they are saying, “I’m putting myself in a position to take a life.”
It’s not just a random object, it’s a deadly weapon.
She questioned why they are seeing increasingly younger kids picking up guns, which lands them in front of her.
“By the time I become involved, in some aspects, it’s too late,” Graf said.
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