RIDGELAND, Miss. (WLBT) - Kendrell Miller set off for a basketball game at Midway Park in Ridgeland with his friends Tuesday night. He took a cooler of gatorade and his girlfriend.
And he never came home.
Miller died Wednesday after being gunned down in a drive-by shooting at Midway Park with a bullet that wasn’t even meant for him.
Surveillance photos from the area show a Ford pickup truck with four men in it just before the shooting occurred. Ridgeland Police Chief John Neal said one of the men in the game left the basketball court.
“He walked away from the basketball court and we found out that was due to the fact that he knew the individuals in the truck, and there had been an ongoing dispute with those individuals,” Neal said. “He felt something bad was about to happen and he was removing himself from the area.”
He probably had no way of knowing that they would open fire on his friends, the chief said.
Miller, known as “Bookie” to his friends, was by all accounts not involved with either side of the beef. His friends said he has a little girl named Kharmen. He lived a good life, they said as they stared blankly at the basketball court where his life ended, unwilling to talk to the camera, but unable to keep from spilling details and tears about their beloved friend.
Two teenagers are in custody in Miller’s death. Jabari Branch, 17, and Isaiah Evans, 15, are both Ridgeland High School students. As of Wednesday night they were still charged with aggravated assault, but Neal said the charges would more than likely be upgraded in court on Thursday.
Neal could hardly control the anger on his face when asked about the youth of the two suspects.
“It pisses me off. Sure does. This is youth crime, 15-years-old? You should be out there playing basketball, but instead you’ll see from the pictures they’ve got assault rifles," Neal said. “This is a 23-year-old kid out there enjoying the afternoon with his girlfriend and these little punks aren’t going to come up here and do this.”
There were at least two other men in the truck and police are working to find out who those men are and what part they played in the shooting. Neal promised that justice will come.
“These kids don’t know how to be kids, and for some reason they think that gun violence or trying to scare somebody with a gun is going to result in anything but putting your butt in jail for the rest of your life," he said. "Because I think everybody knows this is Madison County and our relation with the District Attorney up here, this will be swift, just punishment.”
Neal said that while clusters of violent crime aren’t regular in Ridgeland, none of these crimes are connected.
“It’s hard to say that we haven’t seen an increase in crime when you look at the week we’ve had so far,” he said. “But what you will see in Ridgeland is active patrol officers and active investigators because we’re not immune from crime in Ridgeland, but what we are immune from is letting it be tolerated.”