A Tennessee teen is being called a hero after he was killed struggling with two gunmen who broke into his family’s Nashville home on Tuesday night

By Michelle Boudin
December 08, 2017 02:03 PM
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jadonte-thompson
Credit: Courtesy Metro Nashville Police Department

A Tennessee family is grieving this week after their teenage son was killed struggling with two gunmen who broke into the family’s Nashville home on Tuesday night, PEOPLE confirms.

Ja’Donte Thompson, 17, was fatally shot in the scuffle with the home invaders. His grandmother said he took the bullet for his mother.

Shirley Whitlow told local station WZTV, “When he heard what was going on, he came and protected his mother. He died protecting his mother.”

According to the Metro Nashville Police Department, there were four people in the house — in bed — when the gunmen kicked in the back door and went to the bedrooms demanding money.

The men pistol-whipped Thompson’s stepfather before leaving without taking anything, police said. They suspect the would-be robbers possibly went to the wrong house.

So far, investigators have made no arrests in the case.

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Thompson recently took a job at Top Golf to help pay for Christmas gifts, and his great aunt Cotina Hancock told the Tennessean: “It’s a shame. He was a great kid.”

“He was very talented in numerous ways,” cousin Lovely Horton tells PEOPLE. “He was smart and amazing. … He has never been a trouble kid. We will miss him dearly.”

Thompson was a fairly new student at Hillsboro High School in Nashville. The school’s executive principal tells PEOPLE, “We are very saddened and still have many people working through the process of grieving.” The school has brought in counselors to work with students.

In a statement, the school district said he “had a positive impact on his classmates, teachers and staff…teachers said he was a good example of an aspiring leader. This is a tragic loss.”

Friends of the family have set up an online fundraiser to help pay for funeral, which is set for Monday. (A call to the family was not immediately returned.)

“He had a permanent smile,” Hancock reportedly said of Thompson. “You could be in a dark place and he could light up the room.”

The suspected gunmen are described as in their late 20s to 30s. One wore a red beanie hat and red jacket and the other wore a mask and all black clothing.

Anyone with information is urged to call 615-742-7463.