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23YO slain in Richmond was LGBT advocate, RYSE member

A 23-year-old man who was shot and killed earlier this week in Richmond was an LGBT advocate, a RYSE community member, and a bright light in the lives of many, RYSE staff said.

Kenji Jones was shot in the head around 9:30 p.m. on Sunday in the 900 block of Eighth Street, according to police.

He died in the hospital on Tuesday, police said.

According to Maaika Marshall, a youth justice coordinator at RYSE, a Richmond-based community center for young people, Jones was in the wrong place at the wrong time:

“He’s definitely the last person I would think would be fighting for his life. He was just so full of life.”

When she heard he had been shot, Marshall said she was in a state of shock. Her hands trembled, she said.

This was someone who had played football and was a cheerleader for the same team at Kennedy High School, Marshall said. He loved “glitter and glam,” strutting his stuff down catwalks and putting on fashion and hair shows, Marshall said.

According to Marshall, it was “definitely” not a targeted shooting:

“It was just very shocking.”

Jones became a member of RYSE within its first year, in 2008, and was one of the founding members of the center’s “alphabet soup” or LGBTQ group, RYSE co-founder Kanwarpal Dhaliwal said.

Dhaliwal said Jones was one of the young people who really helped to create, lead and implement Pride Month at RYSE:

“Wherever he was, he really invoked a sense of safety and possibility.”

According to Marshall, Jones’ gregarious personality was a force to be reckoned with, and had a habit of filling every room with his energy:

“He was definitely hard to miss. He really made his presence known.”

RYSE Executive Director Kimberly Aceves created a GoFundMe campaign page to raise money for Jones’ family to cover funeral and related costs, according to the campaign page. As of this evening, the campaign had raised $890 out of a goal of $5,000.

Aceves described Jones as a “powerful, courageous and audacious force in the world.” He wrote:

“Kenji was a constant reminder of what it means to live life to the fullest and we will forever miss Kenji’s vibrant energy that turned every hallway into a runway. He was one of a kind and the world just got a little less bright without him in it.”

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