It was Friday, Feb. 9 when police say Jalen Merriweather, an 18-year-old high school basketball star in Tuscaloosa, listened as his sister argued with her ex-boyfriend in an apartment.
The argument got worse and worse. Then it became violent.
Suddenly, police say Donald Robertson pulled a gun and pistol-whipped Jalen's sister across the face with it. Then police say he started shooting.
“She was screaming and he was chasing her around this big garbage can in the parking lot, in circles, and he was firing the gun,” Jalen's mother Angela Merriweather told the Tuscaloosa News. “They said he had her in a headlock and hit her with the gun, like he was going to kill her. Jalen came out, he pointed the gun at him and she broke loose and ran.”
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Jalen went ran upstairs to put on clothes, then came back to find Robertson threatening to shoot both his older sister and his 15-year-old niece, Jalen's mother told the paper.
He stepped in front of them - and was shot in the chest. He died shortly after in an apartment bedroom.
Now 48-year-old Donald Kenneth Robertson is charged with murder, attempted murder and robbery in Jalen's death, and remains on the run.
Jalen's family, friends and school family are in shock.
"That man doesn't know what he took away from me. He took away my best friend and heartbeat," Jalen's mother Angela told WIAT. "Maybe one day I will realize and I will be strong enough, but I am so weak now that I don't know how I am going to make it without him."
She told the station Jalen had planned to attend the University of West Alabama to play basketball and study engineering. He was one of the top scorers on the team and helped lead the Holt Ironmen to a major victory the night before.
“He went out as a hero. And he was just doing what he saw fit, and that was to save our sister and I wouldn’t have it any other way besides the outcome,” Jalen’s sister Kanesha Merriweather told WVUA.
“He was exceptional, his teachers always told me that he was such a good kid,” Angela Merriweather told the Tuscaloose News. “He never gave me any trouble, and told me every day ‘mama, I’m appreciative of everything you do.’”
On Tuesday, Holt High School's gym filled to capacity as the Holt Ironmen basketball team presented Jalen's family with a framed No. 4 basketball jersey and red sneakers that belonged to Jalen.
“He was a hero,” Holt coach Steven Watkins said, according to the Tuscaloosa News. “Whether it’s your teacher, preacher or coach, you always talk about doing the right thing. That’s what Jalen is, and that’s what Jalen did.”
Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit assistant commander Capt. Kip Hart told AL.com very few leads have come in on Robertson's whereabouts so far, and stressed that helping him avoid capture is against the law and could lead to serious charges.
Police say anyone with information on his whereabouts can call police or Crime Stoppers at 205- 752-7867.