Student killed near LeMoyne-Owen campus was aspiring lawyer

Vigil held for college student shot, killed
(Source: Facebook)
(Source: Facebook)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Family members identified the LeMoyne-Owen College student killed just off campus Tuesday night.

The student's uncle confirmed the victim was 21-year-old Donovan Mills.

Police said Mills was shot near the intersection of Saxon Avenue and Lenow Place. He was taken to the hospital in extremely critical condition, where he later died.

Family and friends said Mills was bound for law school.

"These senseless crimes have got to stop," Brown said.

Mills would have graduated from LeMoyne-Owen in May. He wanted to be a lawyer and moved to Memphis to get a good education and escape the dangerous streets of Detroit.

"We brought him to what we thought was a safer environment in Memphis and now his life has been taken away," Brown said.

Mills' family said he was walking to a gas station when he was shot. He's the oldest of four siblings and recently rejoined the choir at Greater White Stone Missionary Baptist Church.

"Overall he was a good young man, kind hearted, and would do anything for anybody," Mills' aunt Emma Brown said.

On campus on Wednesday, during a bell-ringing service, his friends and family prayed, read poems, and grieved.

"He meant something to a lot of people. He meant something to me," Cynthia Riley said.

In September, a former student was shot on campus, causing the college to beef up patrols.

"We do have a new security company that we have employed over the last couple of months, and we've also installed sky cop cameras," LeMoyne-Owen spokesperson Daphne Thomas said.

Since October 1, there has been considerable crime in the area. Within a 1.5 mile radius of campus, which includes incidents in South Memphis, police have responded to more than 200 incidents, including:

  • 30 aggravated assaults
  • 19 burglaries
  • 10 robberies
  • 1 rape

"Just because things are happening around the area does not define who we are as a campus; that doesn't define our school," Riley said.

People like LeMoyne-Owen Alumni President Jeffrey Higgs are fighting to preserve the legacy of the campus and the area--which includes historic places like the Stax Museum, LeMoyne-Owen, and Soulsville Charter School to name a few.

"We can't let what happened yesterday diminish the good work going on here," Higgs said.

Higgs is an advocate for the area. He's been working to fight blight and crime and add more jobs to the area. He also works on the Memphis-Shelby County Crime Commission.

"There's a lot of positive things in this neighborhood, but I think sometimes when bad things happen, they're overlooked," Higgs said.

Wednesday night was a somber evening for those who loved the college student. Family and friends paid tribute to Mills at a vigil.

They held candles, wrote messages, and prayed.

"There's nothing that hurts worse than to lose a child, Lord God," one family member said.

"Don't let Detroit's death be in vain," Brown said. "He meant a lot to each one of us."

It hurts - especially to lose someone many say was so giving and full of life.

"Angry because they took my friend from me, but hurt because I never thought it would be him," Daniel Haywood said.

But his family and friends say his life will live on here as they call for change.

"Stop the talking. It's time for the conversation to end and action to begin," Haywood said.

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