Everyone adored him’: Family devastated after 16-year-old shot to death with friend in Ensley

The family of one of two 16-year-old Minor High School students fatally shot in Birmingham Sunday night said they were longtime friends who were always together and stayed out of trouble.

“They had been friends for seven years,’’ said Todd Johnson Sr. of his son, Todd Jr., and friend Jeremiah Collier.

“They did their homework together. When they got out of school, they played a little basketball. They had a goal set up outside and we never had any problems in the neighborhood.”

Todd and Jeremiah, and at least one other friend, were all in a vehicle together about 8 p.m. Sunday when someone fired on them in the 5100 block of Court O in Ensley.

Birmingham police responded to the scene where they found a car had crashed into a house. Inside that vehicle, they found Jeremiah unresponsive in the passenger’s seat.

He was pronounced dead on the scene at 8:35 p.m.

Jeremiah Collier (Contributed)

A short time later, a woman who lived in the several blocks away notified police that there was a body in her front yard.

There police found Todd, also unresponsive, and he was pronounced dead on the scene at 8:59 p.m.

Additionally, a 15-year-old showed up at the hospital with a gunshot wound to the hand.

A witness, who asked to remain anonymous, said he heard a single shot before the car crashed into the house.

After the crash, multiple shots rang out again, and he saw what appeared to be three young males running away from the vehicle.

He said he did not see a suspect or suspects or know where the gunfire came from.

Acting Police Chief Scott Thurmond said earlier this week investigators were still trying determine if there was a fourth friend was in the vehicle with the other three victims at the time of the shooting.

Todd Johnson Jr. (Contributed)

Todd and Jeremiah are among eight teens killed in Jefferson County since Jan. 1, and among six in the city of Birmingham.

“I think it’s important that when we speak to gun violence, this is not just numbers,’’ Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said Tuesday. “They were people. They were part of a family, and they had names.”

He read the names of the six teens killed so far this year Birmingham: Yasmine Wright, 16; De’Undray Haggard, 18; Javarius Reid; 17; Chico Guest, 17; Jeremiah Collier, 16 and Todd Johnson Jr., 16.

Additionally, two teens have been killed outside the city, one in Fairfield and the other in Bessemer: Paul Evans Smith Jr., 18, and Janiya Simons, 15.

“These are young people. They are teenagers,’’ Woodfin said. “Gun violence has stolen the lives of these teenagers.”

Clockwise: Yasmine Wright, Jeremiah Collier, Todd Johnson Jr., De’Undray Haggard, Chico Guest and Javarius Reid. (Birmingham Police Department)

Both teens were in the 10th grade.

Jeremiah and Todd’s mother, Lynda Crowder, said Todd Jr., had an outgoing personality and was well-liked. “He was the guy that got along with everyone,’’ he said. “Everyone around him pretty much adored him.”

Todd had been athletic all his life, and loved to play football, which he had done from youth league up into high school. “That was his thing,’’ his father said.

One of eight siblings, Todd liked to spend time with his family, especially playing games with his nephews.

His oldest sister, Ikea Norwood, said she communicated with her brother often via the family’s group text, and said she last saw him on her birthday last week when he made her a breakfast of French toast.

“It was his favorite thing,’’ Norwood said. “I called it his signature bread.”

Known affectionately by has family as ‘Lil man’ – though not the youngest, he was the smallest of the siblings – Todd was described and smooth and laid back.

“He was a family kid – he liked to around his family,’’ Norwood said.

Todd wanted to be a truck driver after graduation. Norwood said she recently had a conversation with him about it and told him the new age requirement was only 18.

“He was looking forward to that,’’ she said. “He had a lot of goals.”

Another sister, Taj Johnson, said Todd always silly.

“He could make anyone laugh at any moment, no matter how serious it was,’’ she said. “You could never stay mad at him because he would make you laugh even if you didn’t want to. He played a lot.”

“He was the real definition of a little brother, always annoying you and bothering you, but in a good way. I’m going to miss it,’’ she said. “It doesn’t seem real, thinking he’s not going to be there.”

Johnson said he doesn’t yet know what led to the shooting but has to think maybe it was a case of mistaken identity.

Gunfire rang out in a west Birmingham neighborhood Sunday night, leaving two males dead. The shooting happened in the 5100 block of Court O.

It’s nothing I would have ever imagined,’’ he said.

“It was still early. We didn’t have to enforce a curfew on him because he was normally home at a reasonable time,’’ he said. “He would frequently visit friends at their homes and come back home.”

He had friends in the neighborhood where he was killed. “He felt comfortable traveling through there,’’ Johnson said.

“My son and his friends were never out for any type of trouble,’’ Johnson said. “They don’t deal with guns, and they aren’t in that way of life. They tried to stay out of situations like that.”

“The people that are in that way of life that want to harm someone, they’ll prey on people who seem harmless,’’ Johnson said. “He didn’t have problems with anyone. His friends didn’t have problems with anyone. That’s why they didn’t feel threatened to go anywhere.”

He said the family is devastated by what happened.

“Right now, we’re just hanging on by a thread,’’ he said. “We’re struggling and trying to deal with the pain. It’s a never-ending thing.”

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