HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — “It ain’t gonna be the same without my brother here,” said Chuck Reese, overcome by the grief of losing his best friend, 24-year-old Jaqhawn Walters, to gun violence over the weekend. “I spoke to my brother every day of the week.”
Walters was a hero for many Hartford youth — the living embodiment of overcoming the odds to achieve greatness as a basketball star. He excelled at Albertus Magnus College, and later signed a professional contract with a leading team in Argentina.
“He’s going to go down as one of the best players to ever play here, but off the court, he’s a social butterfly around campus,” said head coach at Albertus Magnus College, Mitch Oliver. “He is the man. He is Albertus Magnus.”
Oliver said Walters was a magnetic presence, beloved even by opposing teams.
Police said it was around noon on Saturday when the young man was shot and killed following some kind of altercation with 33-year-old Jason Stone. Stone surrendered to police as Walters died in a hospital bed.
At his arraignment, Monday, Stone’s public defender implied this could be self-defense, but state prosecutors said it was cold-blooded murder.
“I believe it is a strong case for the state at this time,” said the judge as she refused to budge on Stone’s $1 million bond.
“I’m very angry because of another wasted young life,” said one of Walter’s former high school teachers, Sandy Riggins, as she put flowers at the scene of the alleged murder.
Many who knew and loved Walters stopped by a growing memorial there to remember him.
“He would have been one of the kids that would have represented Hartford in a good way,” said neighbor Crystal.
“I just love him for who he is, his heart, his spirit, his presence when he stepped in the room,” recalled Reese. “One of one.”
“People looked up to him,” said Oliver. “They wanted to be him and he knew that; he accepted that responsibility. He was just happy about life. This is beyond basketball. Just a tremendous loss. It’s devastating; we’re heartbroken.”
The college is planning a public memorial in the coming days. Coach Oliver said the team plans to retire Walters’ jersey number.
Stone has no past criminal history, according to his public defender. He’ll next be in court on Oct 5.