Gyron LeBeuf had been setting up chairs and putting the final touches on decorating for his mother's 39th birthday on Saturday when, his family says, he left to get her a gift from the Mall of Louisiana.
His mom didn't notice him slip out of the house. Then, she got a call from her daughter telling her to get to the hospital because Gyron had been shot.
"I thought he was still in the house," Akiko LeBeuf said Sunday as tears welled up in her eyes. "I couldn't believe it."
Emergency responders found Gyron LeBeuf, 17, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds Saturday evening near an apartment complex in the 10100 block of The Grove Avenue, not far from the mall, police said. Emergency crews brought him to the hospital where he later died of his injuries.
Baton Rouge Police have offered few details about the shooting, including what prompted it and how LeBeuf traveled to the mall, a nearly nine-mile drive from his home. A spokesman for the department said Sunday that detectives were still investigating but hadn't made any arrests.
Party decorations and an untouched birthday cake remained in the family's garage in the Lobdell-Woodale neighborhood Sunday afternoon as friends and relatives gathered to mourn LeBeuf's death.
"Gyron didn't deserve this at all," said his cousin, Gwendolyn Davis. "He wasn't gang-affiliated or anything of that nature. He was a high school student who played basketball."
LeBeuf was a junior at EBR Readiness Superintendent's Academy and played point guard for the Baton Rouge Avengers on a BREC basketball league since he was 11. He was also a rapper and spent much his time with teammates, his sister, two brothers and large group of cousins.
"He was funny. Everybody loved him," Akiko LeBeuf said. "He was well-known, everybody called him baby."
LeBeuf's BREC team played Sunday afternoon and took a moment of silence before the game. Coach Jabar Triplett Sr. said the team struggled early in the game, missing shots and playing slowly, a sign he said showed their teammate's death was weighing on them.
Triplett called a time out and huddled with his players. "Gyron would want us to win this game," he said he told them before they went on to win 40-20.
Younger players often looked up to Gyron and would look forward to when he'd come by and practice with them, teach them a few moves and offer them advice, Triplett said.
"It hurts," he said. "We were so close. It's going to be an eye-opener for a lot of the kids."
Relatives said he did well in school and hadn't gotten into serious trouble but had on occasion defended himself in a few fights with other boys.
Davis said the shooting underscores a worry she's had about gun violence in the city and fears she's had about her family falling victim to shooting, especially during a fight that ends in gunfire.
"It's ridiculous," she said. "They really need to put the guns down."
Her cousin's death comes nearly two months after Gervonte Taplin, a 17-year-old Broadmoor student, was fatally shot and his 10-year-old brother injured during a break-in of his home off Millerville Road on Christmas Eve.
Police last week arrested Koverias Garner, also 17, on suspicion first-degree murder in that case. They said the killing stemmed from gang violence, and Garner had broken into the home and stole Taplin's PlayStation.
At age 17, Gervonte Taplin had much of his life mapped out. After graduating from high school, he would attend Southeastern Louisiana Universi…
District 10 Metro Council Member Tara Wicker, whose son played sports with LeBeuf, said his and Taplin's deaths have renewed parents' worries about their kids falling victim to gun violence.
"For us as parents in the city, that's our worst fear," she said. "We've got to be able to stop this trend of tragedy in our city so that we all can feel safe with allowing our children to go out and live life."
Adding that more needs to be done to curb gun violence, Wicker pointed to a need to show young people better ways to solve differences.
She noted a need for mentorship and other programs to expose young people to worlds beyond their neighborhood, as well as to show them the realities of gun violence, and its lasting ripple effect it has on families and communities.
"We're not doing enough," she said.
LeBeuf's family, meanwhile, say they're still searching for answers but have received little information from authorities about what may have led to Saturday's shooting.
"My heart hurts for my cousin. You never think that your kids are going to get shot and die," Davis said. "There's nothing that I can do or anybody else could do. He is not coming home no more."
EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story misstated the school Gyron LeBeuf attended at the time of his death. He was a junior at EBR Readiness Superintendent's Academy.