Junior high student latest victim of violence
West Memphis 16-yearold shot and killed in grandmother’s home
An apparent drive-by shooting overnight Thursday shattered a West Memphis home and shook up West Junior High. A popular 16-year-old student- athlete, Taylon Vail, died in a hail of gunfire at 2 a.m. inside his grandmother’s house at 2000 E. Harrison. By morning rumors abounded creating confusion at his school as word spread via social media that the shooting had happened at the school.
School officials said Vail was a good kid with no negative police contacts and was by all accounts well-liked. The Blue Imp basketball player was a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
West Memphis Assistant Chief of Police Robert Langstion provided a narrative of the shooting.
“He did not live there.
It was his grandmother’s house,” said Langston.
“His mom was out of town at an event with one of his siblings. He did not want to stay home alone. He chose to stay at Grandma’s house.”
By the morning school bell, news of the slain classmate sent shockwaves through two local schools.
“The students at West and Wonder and all across the city were really shaken up,” said Langston. “He had no negative police contact. He was just literally in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Over the weekend, Langston said dedicated detectives remained on the case around the clock investigating the shooting.
“They are still here now working on leads,” said Langston.
Vail was on the frontroom couch according to authorities. Langston hypothesized a motive as investigators pieced evidence together looking for clues.
“He was playing video games and the shots did come from outside the house,” said Langston. “He was not usually there. He was not a person that got into any conflicts.
But another male living in the house had been involved in at least one shooting we know of, so it may have been some kind of attack or retaliation against him. We just don’t know for sure right now.”
Grieving students at West and Wonder received support from local ministers called in by police. Mayor Marco McClendon consoled the students that remained in school at West Junior High. Reserve officer and West Memphis First Baptist Children’s director Billy Beech ministered at the shooting scene overnight.
“He came in on the scene last night and helped with the family,” said Langston. “We were on the phone with the principle at West at six o’clock this morning to let him know what they were in for today.”
Nonetheless, rumors spread that the shooting was at school causing many frantic parents to run back to school, concerned for their children. “West put out a post, and the only thing that I can think of was someone misread what was on social media and it led to mass hysteria,” said Langston. “We put something out into social media as quickly as possible, but it had caught like wildfire before we could do anything about it. Once that happened, we had extra officers at the school to help out.
We had three officers up there all day, not because of any threat against the school but to help calm parents with assurance nothing would happen at the school.”