NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A dedicated athlete, classmate and friend killed by a single gunshot after a basketball game at Menchville High School.
“My heart just kind of dropped because I was just thinking why, what happened, how could that possibly have happened to him,” said Lavie Tran, a Woodside High School senior.
Tran, who has known Justice Dunham since the eighth grade, tells 10 On Your Side she wasn’t at the game Tuesday night but quickly heard word about the shooting through social media.
“When I first saw it, I didn’t believe it was Justice, the Justice that I knew,” Tran recalled.
She called Justice a caring and ambitious friend.
“He brings the light to the room. He was a very good role model. He’s a great support system, especially on the field. They looked up to him, a lot of people looked up to him,” Tran said.
10 On Your Side also reached out to Dunham’s coach and teammates on the Woodside High School football team where Dunham was a wide receiver. They told us they were unable to comment on his death.
Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew detailed an altercation that happened in the gym, and after the game, spilled into the parking lot.
“Apparently there were two individuals that we know of that had some words going back and forth, some gestures back and forth,” Drew explained in a Wednesday news conference.
After hours of questioning, police arrested 18-year-old Demari Batten in the shooting death of Dunham. Batten is charged with second-degree murder, use of a firearm and commission of a felony and a firearm on school property.
“We know what happened and we know who did it. For me, it’s why, and that’s going to take a little bit. The victim was at the victim’s vehicle and Mr. Batten approached the victim,” Drew stated.
Police say both parties were in possession of firearms. Three were recovered Tuesday at the scene. One of the three was allegedly used by Batten. Two were found in the victim’s vehicle, police said.
“Gun violence is out of control. When will this stop? When will we stop meeting like this?” asked Newport News Mayor McKinley Price.
Tran and her classmates are still processing the news. They are also calling for change.
“You never know what can happen and what can happen to the people around you. Never resolve to violence as a solution,” Tran said.
Woodside and Menchville students will return to class on Thursday with counselors on hand. Thursday and Friday will be spirit days at Woodside in honor of Dunham.