The family of David J. Graham, the 19-year-old Round Lake Park man killed by what authorities described as an accidental shotgun blast on his birthday Monday morning, said he had artistic talent, liked working on cars and was contemplating going to community college.
“We want to let people know that David was very loved and a very good man,” said his sister, De’Andrea Graham, 21, of Chicago.
“We were very close,” she added. “He was always the one to make me laugh, and I for him.”
Graham said her brother was an artist who used charcoal, pencil and colored pencils as his media. He had done a portrait of his mother, and his other works had juxtapositions of images, like the one about his birth year, 1998, and his nationality, she said.
She added that their father, Everton, is Jamaican and Indian, while her mother, Denese, is Jamaican and English.
“He was very proud of where he was from,” she said. “He would do a portrait of anyone who asked him.”
Graham, who is also a photographer, added that her brother “followed in my footsteps, because I’m a good artist in the same manner.”
“Anyone who ever knew him knows he was one of the most caring people,” she said. “He was kind and humble.”
While David Graham was interested in art, his sister said, he also liked to work on automobiles, and she believes he was contemplating going to the College of Lake County to study automotives, but she wasn’t sure if he was also going to look into graphics.
David Graham graduated from Round Lake High School and played on the football team. De’Andrea Graham said their two younger brothers, Joshua and Levi, “always looked up to him.”
According to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, David Graham died on his birthday, March 13, after he was accidentally shot in the head while driving his mother’s vehicle with four other adults when a sawed-off shotgun carried by one of the passengers went off. Though an initial sheriff’s report listed him as 20, Graham’s family said he had just turned 19. A sheriff’s spokesman confirmed his age as 19 on Wednesday.
A sheriff’s statement reported that the person holding the gun was identified as Joey Gonzalez, 19, of Round Lake, and he was charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (possession of a sawed-off shotgun) and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (no Firearm Owner’s Identification Card), all of which are felonies.
A preliminary investigation by deputies and investigators with the Lake County Major Crime Task Force found Graham and four others were celebrating his birthday, the Sheriff’s Office reported, and Graham pulled the vehicle over in the area of Monaville Road and Old Monaville Road in unincorporated Lake Villa.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Graham and Gonzalez got out of the vehicle and began firing a shotgun into the air. The statement added that the two got back into the vehicle, Graham began driving and the shotgun discharged from the back seat, where Gonzalez was holding it.
The statement added that Graham was struck in the head, and one of his passengers drove him to Northwestern Medicine Grayslake Outpatient Center on Belvidere Road in Grayslake, where Graham was pronounced dead shortly after their arrival.
“They should have called 911,” Graham’s sister said on Wednesday. She added that just a few days earlier, her mother was taken to a hospital for heart pains, and she was going to stay there until Monday for a stress test.
“(David) was going to drop off his girlfriend and then pick up some friends, get something to eat and then pick up some flowers and come to the hospital,” she said. “He had sent me a text message, and that was the last time I heard from him.”
De’Andrea Graham said she wants to warn people to lock away their guns.
“I want to mention gun safety, because this never should have happened,” she said. “Always lock your weapons up, no matter what. I’m furious this happened. Those kids didn’t need a gun in that car.”
She said the funeral arrangements will be announced soon. There is also a Meal Train internet campaign for the Graham family, through which people can make donations and sign up to provide meals to the family, and a Youcaring.com fundraiser to help pay funeral expenses.