ROCKFORD (WTVO) – Gone, but never forgotten. That was the message that the family members of Za’Shawn Coats wanted to communicate today.
“Since he’s gone, we’re not gonna forget about him. We’re gonna let his spirit live on. We’re still gonna celebrate,” said his aunt, Kayla Ballard.
Coats was shot and killed earlier this year on January 21st-Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He was only fifteen years old. Today, his family had a party to celebrate his sixteenth birthday, which would have been on July 18th.
“It would’ve been really special to him. Before he passed, he was really looking forward to his 16th birthday party,” Janaya Blankenship, Za’Shawn’s Sister, said.
The idea to have a birthday party came from his grandmother, Pam Wilkins. She had water bottles, goody bags, and t-shirts made that said “I am Dunny.” The phrase has special meaning to those closest to Za’Shawn.
Dunny was Za’Shawns nickname, given to him by his father.
“I don’t wanna put rest in peace, I just want to put I am Dunny, cause I’m his voice,” Wilkins said.
Family members weren’t the only people who came to celebrate.Wilkins also invited members of the neighborhood to come play.
Blankenship noted that it was a great way to celebrate her brother, saying “He just wanted everybody to be happy. He was a joyful kid, and he just liked to see smile’s on peoples face.”
Police did make an arrest in connection to Za’shawn’s murder.
Juan Mora is charged with first-degree murder, his next court date is set for July 24th.