Reward offered in shooting death of church youth leader

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — The so-called "no snitch culture" of the streets is allowing a killer to remain free, relatives of slain 21-year-old church youth leader and rental car manager Deonton Strickland insisted Tuesday.

Strickland was gunned down in broad daylight at about 3:45 p.m. on Dec. 7 while standing outside a friend's house in the 14900 block of Fairfield near Livernois and Fenkell on the city's west side

"I'm torn up," the victim's mother, Nina Strickland said Tuesday at a press conference at Crime Stoppers of Michigan, which is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the killer's arrest. "He was with a lot of people when this happened, and they all saw it, but his friends don't think enough of him to say 'Let me speak up and say something.' "

Deonton Strickland was a youth leader at Puritan Avenue Baptist Church, and worked as a manager at Marks One Car Rental in Redford Township. He enjoyed writing gospel rap songs, playing basketball and dancing.

"The family's going through a lot of pain," said Strickland's father, Michael Gordon. "To lose your son is the most terrible thing that can happen. He had so much potential; he didn't deserve this."

Deonton Strickland shown after graduating from Mumford High School in 2012.

Nina Strickland said her son had argued with an unknown man who drove away after heated words were exchanged.

"He pulled his car onto the next block and came back on foot," she said. "Deonton was standing there with two other friends, getting ready to go to the store, and there was a bunch of other people standing around.

"The killer ran up between two vacant houses and shot my son in the neck," Strickland said, recounting statements from witnesses and police. "Then, while he was on the ground, the killer walked right up to him and shot him point-blank in the head."

The gunman shot one of Strickland's friends in the leg, his mother said. "Then he shot at the other friend's car, but he was able to drive away without getting hit," she said.

Relatives, some wearing T-shirts commemorating Strickland, sobbed as they pleaded for someone to come forward with information about the shooting.

"My brother meant so much to so many people," Shawnte Gordon said. "He was my little brother, but I liked to call him my little big brother, because he looked out for me. He looked out for everybody."

Sister DeLisa Strickland added, "It hurts to know there were people there who won't say anything. I feel incomplete without my brother."

The victim's aunt, Renee Strickland-Pruitt, lambasted the witnesses whom she said are impeding justice.

"They're not showing much love for him," she said. "His so-called friends aren't being very good friends. Please do the right thing."

De'Vante Ball, Strickland's cousin, broke down in tears as he spoke. "He was like the backbone of the whole family," he said. "I never thought, seeing families on TV (mourning homicide victims), that this would end up being our family."

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers of Michigan at (800) SPEAK-UP (773-2587), or log onto Tipsters will remain anonymous.

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