DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) – 20-year-old Ja’Niah Thomas was shot and killed in Decatur last week. Now, people are stepping up to support the kids she left behind, including a 4-year-old who was also shot.
Decatur Police say one 17-year-old has been arrested for first degree murder. Two other teenagers are still wanted – a 15-year-old and 18-year-old Mattavius Anderson. While law enforcement work to find all those responsible, the victim’s family is grappling with unthinkable loss.
“I do feel like the community is behind solving this case. For one, because she was 26 weeks pregnant, 20 years old,” Rashanda Bond-Partee said.
Rashanda Bond-Partee says the city of Decatur has been shaken by the murder of her cousin, Ja’Niah Thomas.
“She didn’t take pride in anything more than being a mother,” Bond-Partee said.
A crime that Police Chief Shane Brandel was compelled to address directly over social media, asking people to stand up against gun violence. In a Facebook post, he said the department is “deeply saddened,” and: “we will relentlessly pursue those responsible for this act of pure barbarism until they are brought to justice. There is no other option for our team.”
“Even if justice is served it will never be enough for the family because we can never get Ja’Niah back,” Bond-Partee said.
She says Thomas was “an innocent bystander, sitting peacefully on the couch when she was struck with stray bullets.” Thomas’s 4-year-old daughter was shot in the eye.
“We really don’t know if somebody there was actually targeted and she just happened to be there,” Bond-Partee said.
The first emotion Bond-Partee remembers feeling is shock. She says she drove past the scene after work, without knowing what happened inside.
“And I’m like, ‘oh my God, what is going on?’ And I see the sheriff’s department, the ambulance, police officers… lots of people standing out, crying, screaming,” Bond-Partee said.
Then she got a heartbreaking phone call from her brother.
“So immediately I had to pull over because I had to grasp what he was saying,” she said.
She says her tight-knit family is waiting for details, and answers they may never get. Especially difficult for Bond-Partee is the fact she has two daughters close in age to Thomas.
“Imagine seeing a child every day as you drop your children off, interacting with them and being that role model for them as they’re growing up and getting this type of news,” she said.
She says Thomas’s daughter is still in the hospital and will need an artificial eye.
“But she’s young and she’s strong. I really believe she’ll make a full recovery,” Bond-Partee said.
An online fundraiser for medical expenses and a trust for Thomas’s children has already received more than $10,000 in donations. The Walker Funeral Home is also accepting donations on behalf of the family.