Teen shooting victim's family shares memories
Jackie McGregor sat in her living room Wednesday afternoon reminiscing with relatives about her 16-year-old son Terry Harris.
At the same time a day before, McGregor, 50, had seen Harris – athlete, baby sitter, and jokester – die after being shot in his bedroom in their Des Moines home.
"They said they were going to take him to the hospital, but I knew he was already gone," McGregor said. "I heard his last breath."
More than a dozen of Harris' relatives and friends gathered Wednesday afternoon inside the home where Harris had lived with his mother and 12-year-old brother. It was the same home, in the 2200 block of Lincoln Avenue, where Harris was shot at about 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Harris was shot in the mouth, police said. His family told The Des Moines Register that Harris was also shot in the chest, but police have yet to publicly release that information.
Harris was taken to Mercy Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. It is Des Moines' fourth homicide in 2015.
The shooting suspect fled the scene before police arrived. He was still on the loose Wednesday afternoon, police said.
Harris and the suspect were friends, McGregor told the Register. She said she saw the two enter her home and go down to Harris' bedroom before the shooting.
At the time of the shooting, McGregor was baby-sitting four children, all under 4 years old, at the home.
"We just came back from the swimming pool," McGregor said.
The four children and Harris' younger brother, Jace, were in the basement with Harris while McGregor was making lunch upstairs. McGregor said Jace, 12, and two of the children, ages 1 and 2, saw the suspect shoot Harris.
"The 1-year-old didn't sleep last night. She just kept screaming," said Jamaira Rice, 31, Harris' cousin.
Police have not yet released a suspected motive in the case. Sgt. Jason Halifax, public information officer for the Des Moines Police Department, did say Wednesday that "social media has taken us in a strong direction for a motive."
McGregor told the Reigster she had heard the suspect was there to rob Harris. She said she was unsure why someone would rob Harris because her family doesn't have a lot of money.
Harris was not involved in criminal activity, his family said. Police records showed Harris had never been charged in a crime.
His family and friends described Harris as a lovable jokester. They said he would often play pranks, like tricking people into thinking he was taking a picture when he was actually recording a video.
"He always picked on me," McGregor said with a laugh.
Harris had just finished his sophomore year at Hoover High School. He participated in basketball, football and track.
When not at school or playing sports, Harris baby-sat younger family members, like Rice's children.
"He was very mature for his age," Rice said. "He wanted to work and baby-sit."
Harris was saving up money to buy a car and was taking driver's education this summer, Rice said.
Funeral arrangements for Harris had yet to be set as of Wednesday afternoon. His relatives said they wanted to honor Harris' jovial personality by celebrating his life, not by mourning his death.
"He's probably up there looking down and saying, 'Why are you all crying?' " McGregor said.
Police ask anyone with information on this homicide investigation to contact the Des Moines police detective bureau at 515-283-4869 or the Polk County Crime Stoppers anonymously at 515-223-1400 or www.polkcountycrimestoppers.org/.