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Loved one speaks out after 5 arrests made in 2019 death of bicyclist

Damon Rothermel, 50, shot, killed while riding his bike on Emerson Street

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Helen Ayers fought to hold back tears when reacting to the shooting death of her half-brother and the arrests of five people in the case.

“He was my brother. He had children. And he was somebody’s son, and he was just riding his bike,” Ayers said of her half-brother, Damon Rothermel.

Rothermel, 50, was shot and killed in January 2019 while riding his bicycle on Emerson Street near St. Augustine Road. According to police, Rothermel appeared to have been hit by a stray slug from a shootout between people in two cars.

Several people came to his aid. One even tried to perform CPR, but it was not enough to save him.

Ayers said her half-brother died while completing an errand for his mother.

“He was on his way back from Walmart,” she said.

Ayers said she was on her way home that day when she drove up to the crime scene.

“I had pulled up right at the intersection and saw it all taped off. I had no idea it was Damon. I didn’t know until later what had happened," she recounted.

Ayers said it feels like the wheels of justice are beginning to turn now that five arrests were made in connection with the shooting death of her half-brother.

Hakeem Robinson, Dominique Barner, Derek Hudson and Christopher Brown were all eventually charged with murder. Janera Smith was charged as an accessory.

Booking photos of Hakeem Robinson, Dominique Barner, Janera Smith, Christopher Brown, Derek Hudson
Booking photos of Hakeem Robinson, Dominique Barner, Janera Smith, Christopher Brown, Derek Hudson (Jacksonville Sheriff's Office)

It’s still unclear exactly how many people were involved in the shooting.

Ayers said another relative was granted permission to view surveillance video of what happened. She shared with News4Jax what that relative saw in the video.

“He just said that he was riding his bike then, all of a sudden, he dropped to the ground," Ayers said.

She said the senseless gun violence needs to stop.

“It’s so sad that our society of young men have no purpose and they’re going around and killing one another," Ayers said.


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