Mourners gather at Sac High to remember fallen student Deston Garrett
Deston Garrett was allegedly killed over a song by someone he’d been friends with for years.
As more than 1,000 friends and relatives packed the massive St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church on Friday to mourn Garrett, investigators with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department announced they had arrested 23-year-old Fredrick Marshall in connection with the shooting inside Garrett’s Oak Park home on June 9. News of Marshall’s arrest quickly spread through the chapel, with some mourners saying they had expected the news.
At a ceremony at Sacramento Charter High School following the funeral, Garrett’s father, Jay, said that his son and Marshall had known one another for years. Marshall is friends with Garrett’s older brothers and, like his alleged victim, played football at Sacramento High.
Jay Garrett said he was told his son and Marshall disagreed over music Deston was playing as the two hung out with friends inside the family’s home on 45th Street. When Deston urged Marshall to leave, the two got into an argument. Investigators said that argument escalated, Marshall allegedly shot Garrett and fled the scene. Garrett was taken to the UC Davis Medical Center by private vehicle and succumbed to his injuries two days later.
Marshall was arrested late Thursday on a charge of voluntary manslaughter and booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail. He is being held on $1 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Sacramento Superior Court.
“This is a kid (Marshall) who slept in my house countless times, who ate my food,” Jay Garrett said. “For him to do this to my son, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Josh Ingraham, director of public safety at Sacramento High, said Marshall was “a typical kid” who, for the most part, stayed out of serious trouble. Marshall does not have a criminal record in Sacramento County, according to court records.
“People are shocked it’s him,” Ingraham said. “These aren’t gang kids we’re talking about.”
Avoiding that lifestyle was the recurring theme of Deston Garrett’s funeral, an emotional two-hour service inside one of Oak Park’s iconic houses of worship. Many mourners wore purple and white – the colors of Sacramento High School – or T-shirts featuring photographs of Garrett. The young man’s family filled more than a dozen rows inside the church.
Danny Owens, a cousin of Garrett’s, was one of the first people to speak at the service. He had taken his younger cousin to Clear Lake just a few days before he was shot and urged the young people in the crowd to find outlets beyond the dangerous street life.
“Do not let the streets dictate your destiny,” he said to applause.
Garrett was supposed to graduate from high school on June 13, four days after the shooting. Though he was enrolled most of his high school years at Sacramento Charter High School, he spent the last semester at Accelerated Academy earning the remaining credits he needed to graduate, according to the Sacramento City Unified School District. His father was handed Deston’s diploma at a viewing for his son Thursday night.
“If we’re not careful about being kind to others, that will come back to us,” the Rev. Ephraim Williams, the pastor of St. Paul’s, said to begin the funeral service.
Garrett was remembered as an energetic, funny and kind young man who occasionally got into minor trouble. He was a speedy wide receiver on Sacramento High’s football team and had dreams of playing in college.
“He could make you smile and scream at the same time,” said one of his teachers, Tammy Ingraham. “He always tried to do his best, no matter what was thrown at him.”
Garrett played for the varsity football team for three years and was nicknamed “Nutter,” as in “smooth as peanut butter.” About 500 people showed up to honor him at the school’s football field on June 12.
Four other young people between the ages of 15 and 19 have been the victims of homicide in Sacramento County this year, including a 17-year-old boy who died of gunshot wounds in front of his home near Edgeware Way and Harrow Drive in the city’s Valley Hi neighborhood early Thursday. That young man, who has not been identified, attended the June 12 vigil for Garrett, friends said.
Sacramento Police Department spokesman Sgt. Bryce Heinlein said the victim in the Valley Hi shooting went outside his house around 12:45 a.m. to meet someone, but it’s unclear what or who lured the young man. Heinlein said investigators are focusing on the victim’s background, but said there does not appear to be a “solid gang connection.”
Sacramento High officials have said Garrett was not involved in the gang life. Both of his parents are fixtures on the school’s Oak Park campus, working barbecue grills at school events and volunteering at snack bars for basketball and football games. Ingraham, who has worked at the school for 13 years and knows the family well, said that family dynamic makes Garrett’s death difficult to accept.
“It’s so hard because you have two parents that were always there,” he said. “They were the mom and dad for so many other kids who didn’t have a mom or dad around.”
The crowd at Garrett’s funeral was subdued for most of the service. When a slide show began above the altar showing photographs of Garrett in his football uniform posing with his parents, many people got up, quickly fled the chapel and filed into the lobby to weep.
“He had ambitions to go forward in life,” said Tyrone Williams, a minister, in the eulogy. “And it was turned down.”
A few blocks away, a small memorial of candles remained on the sidewalk in front of Garrett’s home, situated in the shape of a “21,” the young man’s number on the Sacramento High football team. A candle in the middle of the vigil had remained lit several days after shooting. But on Friday, it was no longer burning.