COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Hilltop community is mourning the life of a young boy who was taken too soon from gun violence.
Issa Jeylani, 15, was shot and killed Friday night while playing outside with his friends in the west Columbus neighborhood.
Jeylani was one of the star players on the Hilltop Tigers soccer team, and less than a month ago, that team won the league championship.
The players and coaches said the victory was such a happy moment for them and now they can’t wrap their heads around Jeylani being gone.
Zerqa Abid, the founder of Project USA, said the soccer team was supposed to be a safe place for these boys, offering them a way to escape violence, drugs, and gang activity.
“Issa was a beautiful, happy, energetic kid,” Abid said. “Always ready to help people, always happy, optimistic, one of the top payers at year 15 in Columbus.”
Abid said the loss has truly rocked all of them to their core.
“We are the whole family,” she said. “We are the extended family. We are the village where Issa was kind of raised outside his home and outside, he was here. And we have lost him to senseless violence. It could have been avoided in so many ways.”
Two other boys and friends of Jeylani were also injured in the shooting but are expected to recover.
“The Hilltop Tigers soccer team is the place where they get refuge, where they have fun, where they get all the happy things that you can imagine,” Abid said.
She said recently that the job of running the organization is becoming so demanding that she needs the community’s help to solve the problem.
“If we are not given the financial support that we need, we are afraid that we will see this more and more,” Abid said.
For the sake of the next generation and in the memory of Jeylani, who had so much ahead of him, changes need to happen.
“They are all going to miss him, big time,” Abid said.
Abid is seeking funding to create more safe recreation centers for children in the west Columbus area where they can play freely and safely.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said deputies are continuing to investigate Friday’s shooting.