MACON – On March 2, Kristopher Haywood was shot in the head. He died two days later. His heart still beats in Mississippi.
“Kris,” as he was known by family and friends, was working at Local Express service station when it happened. Someone came in and robbed the Jefferson Street business around 10:30 p.m., according to police reports. A 28-year-old Macon native, Kris was struck in the head by two shotgun blasts — the shells were collected by investigators. His mother told The Dispatch witnesses said he fell to the floor, tried to get up, but could not.
He was at three hospitals in 24 hours. The community prayed. But on March 4, he died at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. He was buried March 10 at Salem Cemetery in Macon. It rained that day. That same day, four people were charged with capital murder.
People who knew Kris say he was a caring, religious person. He carried a soft spot for the elderly and for animals.
“The hardest thing for anyone to deal with is, you know what kind of person he was,” Sean Greer, the pastor at Concord Baptist Church in Macon, where Kris was a member, said. “To have that taken away, it hurts.”
Also, he seemed on the cusp of new beginnings. He had plans to go back to college, his mother said. He wanted to become a social worker.
He wanted to help people. In a way, he is. Kris was an organ donor.
Today, his heart is beating inside of a Mississippi resident. His kidneys are still in Mississippi, too. A Floridian received his liver. His pancreas is in Illinois.
While his family and community struggle to come to terms with what happened on the night of March 2, his mother has found a piece of hope in the tragedy.
“His heart right now is breathing and pumping and doing very well,” Carol Haywood said. “And I don’t know who, but I want to meet the person who has his heart.”
Capital murder charges for suspects
Four people are facing capital murder charges for Haywood’s death.
Macon police arrested Jonathon Shumaker, 24, of Shuqualak, as the lead suspect in the case. Shumaker’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Layne Reed, 19, of Shuqualak; Justin Williams, 19, of Macon; and his brother, Joshua Williams, 17, have also been charged with capital murder.
Shumaker, a convicted felon with sandy blonde hair and tattooed hands, is reported to match descriptions of the suspect given by witnesses to Macon police. The alleged roles of the others remain unclear.
Macon police chief Lucious Mason did not return calls for comment from The Dispatch last week.
The night of the murder, witnesses said they heard the blasts and saw a hooded man calmly walking away from the store. Willie Schmidt told the Macon Beacon newspaper he saw a man walking away from the scene carrying a long-barreled gun.
At the time of the crime, Shumaker was on parole for a felony burglary committed in 2010, according to Mississippi Department of Corrections spokesperson Grace Simmons-Fisher. Shumaker had been sentenced in 2011 to seven years in prison for his part in the burglary, which occurred at a Noxubee County business. He was paroled in November 2012, Simmons-Fisher said.
Shumaker spent the final three months of 2014 in custody for his alleged involvement in another Noxubee County burglary last fall. He was eventually granted a $5,000 bond and was released from Noxubee County jail on New Year’s Day, according to the Noxubee County jail docket. MDOC was unaware of his 2014 arrest.
Shumaker, in the days leading up to March 2, was active on Facebook. The day before Kris was shot, Shumaker posted a photo of two revolvers over a heart with a caption reading, “This is what it sounds like when thugs cry.”
Scene of the crime
Kris, who had black hair and small, soft eyes, had worked at Local Express for about a year. It was his second stint of employment at the gas station.
With the exception of a cash register and an old T.V., the station is bare inside. It’s the type of small-town place where people exchange small talk and throw in $5 worth of gas at a time. There was not a surveillance camera the night of the crime. One has since been installed, it looks out over the register. Holes from buckshot remain in one of the store’s window.
Thomas Hamill, 24, works there.
He graduated from Central High School with Shumaker in 2008. Hamill said they used to be friends, but that he had not been around Shumaker in three or four years.
Hamill also knew Kris. He said Shumaker knew Kris, too.
“I know Kris knew him,” Hamill said.
Leo Hamill, the grandfather of Thomas Hamill, also works at Local Express. He got to know Kris.
“He was well-liked, by blacks and whites,” the 79-year-old said. “Everybody liked Kris.”
Both Hamill men said something like this has never happened at Local Express.
‘Everyone’s been leaning on each others’ shoulders’
From the night he was shot, it was clear Kris wasn’t going to make it, but there was still a community to heal.
“The night Kris was shot, it was pretty evident it wasn’t going to be a good outcome. They gave him a 1 percent chance. That really put it in perspective,” Greer said. “We’ve really just come together. Everyone’s been leaning on each others’ shoulders.”
Carol Haywood, who operates a shaved-ice stand on Jefferson Street with her husband, Harvey, talked to The Dispatch about her only son last week.
She talked about how close to and proud of his sisters, Jamie Brooke Haywood and Lindsay Haywood Denton, he was. She spoke of how connected Kris was to his grandmother, Shirley Faye Griffin, and how he took over for his sister Lindsay to provide in-home care for his grandparents, Rev. H.O and Gwendolyn Haywood, before they died. She talked about how many friends he had.
“He always told me, ‘Mother, I’m not the judge…God is. I’m just a friend,'” she said.
She said he would take in stray animals and find them homes. The pets were like children to him, she said. He left behind two dogs and a cat.
“We had about nine rescue animals in our background at one point between him and his sister,” Carol Haywood said.
Kris’ funeral was at Concord Baptist Church, where his late grandfather was pastor for 32 years. It can hold about 300 people, according to Greer. Nearly 800 came to the funeral.
It was a rainy day, and the traffic caused people to park their cars along Concord Road and walk as far as half a mile to the church, according to Greer.
Kris had worked a series of odd jobs after graduating from Central High School in 2005 and East Mississippi Community College. He was finding his way.
Every once in a while, he would move back in with his parents for a time to get on his feet. Carol Haywood said Kris had moved back in with them about a year ago, this time with a plan of going back to college to focus on social work.
“My son was not rich, but he left a rich legacy of caring for people,” Carol Haywood said. “So many people cared about him, that he didn’t even know about.”
There is a program that allows families to connect with people who have received loved one’s organs.
The Haywoods are eager for that day.
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