“He will never be forgotten”: Royta Giles Jr., 8, recalls one year after filming Galleria
A year ago, Jesslyn Layfield and her family were lining up inside the Riverchase Galleria, there to buy new outfits for her children for July 4th.
It was 3:18 p.m. when a gunfight broke out nearby. When it was over, Layfield’s son Royta Giles Jr., 8, lay motionless on the ground with a gunshot wound to his head. He was pronounced dead at the Children’s of Alabama two hours and 17 minutes later.
On Saturday afternoon, dozens of Royta’s family and friends gathered in Hoover outside the state’s largest indoor mall to release red and white balloons in memory of the graduating student. elementary school which has often been described as having the “It factor”.
“It still seems like it happened last week,” Layfield said. “I’m here saying it’s been a year, but it’s still so fresh for us. I’m not doing well, but I have to keep going.
On July 3, 2020, Royta, her mother, stepfather Anthony Jones and sisters Trinity, now 6, and Marlee, now 5, were waiting to enter Children’s Place. Due to COVID-19, stores at the time had restrictions on the number of customers who could be allowed in.
Hoover Police said a dispute that had started possibly over a previous “beef” over rap lyrics erupted near the food court. It degenerated into gunfire and at least 12 shots were fired in just four seconds.
Three other buyers were injured but survived.
Three suspects have been charged in this case: Mount Moses Miracle Coleman, 23, King Gary Williams, 20, and Demetrius Dewayne Jackson Jr., also 20. All three were charged with capital murder and three counts of second degree assault. A test date has not yet been set.
The suspects all claimed that each fired in self-defense – each other.
Testimony in previous hearings showed that one of the accused fired his AR-15 style pistol through a bag of books. The weapon stuck after the first shot, but he had around 75 rounds in the backpack – almost 50 rounds were in two gun magazines and 24 in a sock. According to witnesses, two other defendants lifted their shirts to show that they too had weapons shortly before the shooting began.
Although all parties agreed that no one went to the mall that day with the intent to kill, the resulting carnage occurred due to their “will and oral or tacit consent. to participate in this shooting, “said Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Shawn Allen. When engaged in mutual combat, he said, all parties are criminally responsible for the deaths and injuries that occur that day.
Jackson and Williams have both requested immunity from prosecution, citing self-defense. Additionally, Jackson has applied for juvenile delinquent status. These claims have not yet been decided by a judge.
Royta was born in Houston, but her family later moved to the Birmingham area. At the time of his death, he had just finished second grade at Jonesboro Elementary School in Bessemer, where he was a student on the Honor Roll and worshiped by his teacher, Hedy Davis, and school administrators. He loved to play video games and aspired to become a musical artist. “When he walked into the room, his smile was so captivating that all eyes were on him and people just smiled and laughed with him,” according to his obituary. “He was a special character who loved to joke and laugh.”
“Music was his treasure and was an aspiring rap artist,” reads his obituary. “As with any artist, Her Royal Highness had to be dressed for the occasion. Fashion was his passion. He excelled as a player, artist, fashionista and he was a master artist. He enjoyed his drawings and sketches.
Most of all, Royta loved spending time with her family. “He found special joy in being the ultimate big brother who watches over his little sisters,” teaching them to jump over the sofa, jump off the table and fight against pillows. He was looking forward to the third year and “more often than not Royta was accompanied by his dearest friend, his ‘Prayer Bear’.”
On Saturday, around 40 of Royta’s closest family members formed a prayer circle in the parking lot of the Galleria. There were laughter, tears and a passionate prayer in which Royta was remembered as “a sweet life to be with the Lord”.
Royta’s mother said her slain son was never far from her thoughts and heart. “I’m trying not to worry about tomorrow and lean more toward God and come to terms with what’s happened,” Layfield said. “We’re not OK, but it’s OK. We are protecting our peace at this time.
The family are dedicated to keeping Royta’s name alive. They plan to open a business in his name and also plan to work with Bessemer Schools on Royta’s behalf when they reopen in the fall.
“He will never be forgotten,” Layfield said.