‘He was a great kid’: Family of JSU student killed on campus speaks out

Published: Oct. 17, 2023 at 7:20 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The family of the Jackson State University student who was shot to death Sunday evening is still searching for answers.

Jaylen Burns’ father, Jason Burns, and stepmother, Shavon Burns, described their son as a rock in their family, and moving on will be the hardest thing they’ve ever had to do.

“He was a great kid, and it’s really hard to lose him,” Jason said.

Twenty-one-year-old Jaylen Burns was always known to have a smile on his face and a joke ready to tell.

“The kid was always smiling. He was a born leader, you know. He wanted to help people,” Jason said.

Burns’ father and stepmother say late Sunday night, they received a phone call they never believed would come about their smiling son.

“We planned on coming down here for the homecoming, but we changed our plans. We didn’t want to cramp his style. Because we would have partied harder than him,” Shavon said.

“I woke up, and I saw that I had two missed phone calls from each of his brothers in Arizona. I called him back, and the first thing he said to me was that Jaylen got shot,” Jason said.

Burns says police told them two of Jaylen’s friends drove him to the hospital that night, but his son had been shot in the shoulder, right near his heart.

“He would try to be the mediator like he was trying to do in this one. He was trying to de-escalate, and he ended up getting shot,” Jason said.

Burns says early on, he knew his son was special. In fact, after graduating high school, the Chicago native had an option to attend West Point but chose the HBCU instead.

“After a while, I realized that, you know, this was the place for him because the experience that he was getting at Jackson State was a great experience. I’ve seen how he was changing and turned into a young man,” Jason said.

From grilling at Alpha Phi Alpha tailgates to being in multiple clubs on JSU’s campus, Jaylen always had a full schedule. However, he was never too busy for his family.

“Just knowing that every time we talked, he told me that he loved me. That’s one thing I’ll never forget. I’m still waiting for another text from him that I won’t ever get,” Jason said.

Jackson State’s Public Relations officer Rachel James-Terry had no new details to offer on the investigation.

We also asked if students need to be concerned for their safety tonight because the gunman hasn’t been caught. She didn’t share any information about that.

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