Calgary police have charged a young man in connection with the shooting death of 16-year-old Jal Acor Jal last week.
The suspect, who cannot be named under the Juvenile Criminal Justice Act, is charged with second-degree murder and is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.
Police found Jal dead on March 31 around 8:30 p.m., after receiving reports of a person injured in a green space behind the 100 block of Arbor Meadows Close NW.
The suspect was taken into custody Tuesday after police executed a search warrant at a residence related to their investigation.
The arrest came the day after Jal’s family called on residents of northwest Calgary to review security footage and come forward with any information that might help the investigation.
On Wednesday, family members gathered to meet with reporters and thank police and the community for their role in the arrest.
The family’s spokeswoman, Akeir Kuol, said they know nothing about the accused or why Jal was killed.
“We still don’t have any answers as to why Jal Jal had to die. . . we haven’t seen the defendant, we don’t know his name yet,” Kuol said.
“Everyone asks the same questions.”
And while Kuol said the arrest gives the family “a breathing space, to start planning his funeral,” they said they are still too reeling from the death of the athletic St. Francis High School student to rejoice over the news.
“There is no feeling. . . with Jal not being here, there is nothing that can make us feel better,” said Achan Jal, the aunt of the teenager who lived with him.
She and other relatives spoke of Jal as if he were still alive.
“He’s very open, he’s very easy to talk to, if you don’t know him (you could) go up and talk to him, he’s very friendly, very kind.”
His grandmother, who also lived with the teen, said his loss is still coming to terms with it.
“I don’t think so, my grandson has left me,” he said, looking up at the sky.
“I love you, my grandson, I love you from my heart, one day I will see you.”
As he spoke, Jal’s father sat dejected, a white rosary dangling from his jacket pocket, while his mother, Achang Jal, said she is moving from Lethbridge to Calgary to be with her other children.
“It’s been hard, (Jal Jal) is a lovely boy, everyone thinks he’s my favourite,” she said.
The Calgary Police Homicide Unit toured Arbor Lake to collect CCTV footage and speak with witnesses, working closely with Jal’s family and friends over the course of the investigation.
“We want to thank Jal’s family, friends and community for trusting us to find answers. We could not have done this without your help and without the help of the residents of Arbor Lake,” said Homicide Unit Staff Sgt. Sean Gregson said in a press release.
“While we are grateful to be able to provide answers to his family, this is a sad conclusion to an already tragic event.”
Jal was a student at St. Francis High School and a member of the school’s youth basketball and soccer teams. In a statement to Postmedia, the Calgary Catholic School District said it was saddened by the loss of a student, adding that counselors have been made available to support students. A monument to Jal has been installed in the school.
Speaking to the media on Monday, Jal’s relatives described the teenager as a compassionate and loved member of his community.
“Your presence would light up the room when you enter. Her soul was so pure. Jal was so loving and considerate. He did very little to make everyone smile because he was a kind and caring person by nature,” said Achan Acor Jal, one of Jal’s aunts.
“He recently discussed with his family and coaches about continuing his basketball game in the United States. We love Jal Jal so much. His friends and his family miss him.”
TO GoFundMe campaign started by the family had raised more than $20,000 to fund funeral costs and support Jal’s family.
Jal’s death was the first in a series of shooting deaths in Calgary last week, though police have said they don’t believe the three recent slayings are connected.
The family said a funeral is planned for April 23 and all members of the public are invited.
“(Jal Jal) would love for the whole city, the whole country to attend,” Kuol said.
Speaking at a police commission meeting Wednesday, Deputy Chief Chad Tawfik said there were a total of 10 shootings in Calgary in March, more than double the number in March 2021 and three more than the five-year average for that month. Two of last month’s shootings were fatal, two resulted in beaten victims and six resulted in property damage.
“The last two weeks have been an extremely busy time for researchers,” said Tawfik. “Most of the shootings that occurred in March are still under investigation. But we do know that at least half of these were targeted shootings.”
There have been nine homicides in Calgary in 2022, including six in the last two weeks.
— With files from Stephanie Babych and Bill Kaufmann