MORRISANIA, the Bronx — The parents, teachers and coaches of a Bronx high school basketball star who was fatally shot last year paid tribute to the slain teen on his 19th birthday Wednesday.
Bronx borough president candidate and City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson renamed the corner of East 156th Street and Park Avenue Brandon Hendricks-Ellison Boulevard.
“Happy birthday, Brandon,” his mother, Eve, yelled to the sky.
Hendricks-Ellison’s death, just days before his 18th birthday, has been especially painful for a Bronx community scarred by gun violence.
He had just graduated from Metropolitan Soundview Charter School, after playing basketball for James Madison High School — located on the same campus — and received a full sports scholarship to a community college in California.
Hendricks-Ellison was attending a birthday barbecue in the Bronx for his friend on June 28, 2020, when gunfire broke out. He was hit by a bullet that wasn’t meant for him, according to police.
His last words to a friend: “Make sure you call my mom.”
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who joined NYPD officials at Wednesday’s ceremony, said, “It’s my job to get justice for Brandon.”
“Brandon was taught to make his own decisions,” Ellison told a large crowd at the street renaming ceremony before turning his attention to the youth in attendance. “The question I ask you: What kind of world do you want to live in?”
Ellison called his nephew one of the “bright lights” in his family, as teachers and coaches pointed out that Hendricks-Ellison maintained an academic average of 85 to 90. He tutored his peers in school, volunteered at a local senior center and served as a camp counselor.
“Live like 5!” Gibson repeatedly exhorted the crowd, referring to the No. 5 jersey that Hendricks-Ellison wore on the James Madison basketball team.
Two vehicles parked at the ceremony referred to the Bronx anti-gun initiatives that have been ramped up.
One van showed a photo of a little boy with the line, “Don’t shoot. I want to grow up.”
Eve Hendricks recalled how special her son was, remembering how he comforted her when they lost their house when he was just 6 years old. The family moved to the Morrisania Houses, where life was more difficult.
“‘It’s not where you live. It’s who you are,’” Eve Hendricks recalled her son had told her.