‘Why my son?’: Stricken twice by gun violence, mother IDs 17-year-old found shot to death in Woodstock neighborhood

Mother says her son’s father was killed in 2020 shooting

A Jacksonville mother on Wednesday identified the person found shot to death a week ago in the parking lot of a Woodstock apartment complex as a 17-year-old named Elijah McDonald.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville mother on Wednesday identified the person found shot to death a week ago in the parking lot of a Woodstock apartment complex as a 17-year-old named Elijah McDonald.

No arrests have been announced by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. When News4JAX spoke with McDonald’s mother, Ashleigh, her main question echoes what is asked by many families who have lost a loved one to gun violence: Why?

“Why my son? Like, what did he do? And like, what did he do to deserve that? Not to be shot, but shot more than one time?” she said. “I just don’t understand.”

It’s the second time a member of her family lost their life to gun violence in the last three years, McDonald’s mother said. She told us the teenager’s father also died in a 2020 shooting.

While at work on the afternoon of Sept. 27, she received a phone call that all parents fear.

“When I got there, you know, I didn’t want to believe that was my son laying on that ground. I didn’t want to believe it was him,” McDonald’s mother said.

Initially, very little information was released by the Sheriff’s Office, only that homicide investigators were on the case.

For McDonald’s mother, she’s left with the memories of her son, whom she described as fun-loving, playful — and at times, a handful.

“Goofy, funny, aggravating. He loves to bother his brothers,” she said. “He loves to aggravate them, get on their nerves. He loves to aggravate me. He was that person that comes behind you and tries to slap you in the back of the neck.”

“I miss the aggravation now,” his mother added. “I miss yelling at him now.”

Although she’s heard little from the Sheriff’s Office, she said she’s confident that her son’s killer will be brought to justice.

“I’m holding out hope. What keeps me going now just knowing that Elijah is at rest, knowing that Elijah’s with his father now,” McDonald’s mother said.

She hopes changes are made to improve security at the apartment complex. The Huron-Sophia Apartments are part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 program, which provides housing vouchers for low-income citizens. On the checklist for a property to qualify for the federal program, there’s a “security” item listed -- but no specific requirement for providing it.

According to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office crime reports, the shooting came just two days after another reported homicide less than a mile away.

Ben Frazier, who leads the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, an organization focused on reducing gun violence, released a statement that reads:

“We must stop the flow of blood on city streets and the tragic loss of lives. There are far too many guns in the hands of far too many people who should not have them. We must find a way to stop the violence.”


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Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.