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"I felt like my whole world was just gone," Julvonnia McDowell says of her son's death

By Harriet Sokmensuer and Elaine Aradillas
February 07, 2020 01:12 PM
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Julvonnia McDowell vividly recalls the last time she spoke with her 14-year-old son, Jajuan.

It was a warm day in April in 2016 and Jajuan planned to go to the movies with his grandmother.

“I said, ‘Okay, I love you, bud,’ because I always called him my rosebud,” recalls McDowell, 40. “He said, ‘I love you too, Mama.'”

The next time she would see Jajuan, he would be dead.

Jajuan was accidentally shot by another teen, McDowell’s brother’s stepson, who was playing with a firearm kept in in a drawer under a T-shirt that was not properly secured.

“There are so many gun owners who think, ‘My child is not going to touch it,’ but you never know,” McDowell tells PEOPLE. “Our family was torn apart.”

When McDowell arrived at the hospital after hearing her son had been shot, she says it was too late.

Gun survivors round table: Julvonnia McDowell whose son was shot and killed by a teen playing with a gun. New York, January 11, 2020
Credit: Victoria Stevens

“Every part of my being felt like it left my body,” she says. “I felt like my whole world was just gone.”

• Watch the full episode of People Features: Gun Violence Survivors Speak Out, streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

gun violence roundtable
Credit: Victoria Stevens

Last month, Goddard was one of six gun-violence survivors to participate in a roundtable discussion in New York City to talk about how the shootings turned their lives upside-down. (Watch the roundtable discussion on People Features: Gun Violence Survivors Speak Out.)

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PEOPLE partnered with the nonprofit advocacy organization Everytown for Gun Safety for the roundtable discussion, moderated by actress and advocate Julianne Moore, ahead of National Gun Violence Survivors Week, which began Saturday and continues for a week.

“It’s been a constant struggle, but I continue to fight every day,” McDowell says. “And I have to live for my other son, for just that reason alone.”