Documents reveal details of Fort Madison teen killing; motive unclear

Gun Rights

FORT MADISON — The Fort Madison teenager fatally shot Wednesday has been identified. 

Because the victim is a minor, police and the Lee County Attorney’s Office have identified him only by his age and initials, D.C. According to an obituary posted by King-Lynk Funeral Home, Deeunta “Dee” Q. Ceasar, 15, died Wednesday at Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center-Fort Madison. 

Lee County Attorney Ross Braden confirmed that the victim’s obituary had been posted Thursday online.

Ceasar was a sophomore at Fort Madison High School and an avid sports fan who enjoyed playing football and basketball, as well as music, according to his obituary. 

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“He was always very kind to everyone and carried an infectious smile all the time,” his obituary states. “He never met a stranger and was a friend to everyone.”

An office clerk at Fort Madison High School said counseling has been made available to students for as long as they need it. 

The Fort Madison School District made a post to its Facebook page saying, “As we grieve together: Healing is an art. It takes time, it takes practice. It takes love.”

A message left with the district for further comment had not been returned Friday.

Ceasar was shot while inside his home in the 4000 block of Avenue L, allegedly by a friend who had asked to come to his home. 

Dimari Diajae Jaishon Meredith, 17, has been charged with first-degree murder in Ceasar’s death. 

Because Meredith is over the age of 16 and is accused of having committed a forcible felony, he is being charged as an adult. If convicted of first-degree murder, he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison. 

“The 15-year-old’s a child and the 17-year-old is still a kid in my eyes. It’s tragic,” Braden said. ”Two lives are wasted out of this. It’s terrible.”

Braden and Fort Madison Police Chief Mark Rohloff said a motive for the shooting has not been determined. 

“That has not been clearly determined at this point,” Rohloff said, explaining some people have come forward with theories. “There’s always going to be some gaps, and I don’t like to speculate.”

According to court documents, a dispatcher was able to hear someone yelling “please send an ambulance” on a phone call made just after 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Officers arrived at the home to find Ceasar in his bedroom suffering a possible gunshot wound. He was treated at the scene and taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he died from his injuries. 

Meredith also was in Ceasar’s room upon officers’ arrival, but Meredith fled the scene while emergency personnel were trying to save Ceasar. Meredith was apprehended by officers about two blocks away from the home. 

Three people who were in the home at the time of the shooting told police that Ceasar and Meredith were the only two people in the bedroom when they heard a loud noise, prompting a resident of the home to go inside, thinking the two had broken a window.

Upon entering the bedroom, “she noticed that Meredith was pretending to be asleep when he was actually awake,” court documents state. “She looked to the opposite corner of the bedroom and saw (Ceasar) slumped over, on the floor.”

“She rushed to him and found that he was bleeding profusely,” at which point she dialed 911. 

During interviews with police, Meredith offered several accounts of what happened, including that two other people had come over and shot Ceasar and that he had been asleep at the time the shooting occurred, before admitting to picking up the gun and firing it, fatally striking Ceasar. 

“The investigation is still ongoing, but the shooter pointed the gun at the back of the head of the child and then pulled the trigger,” Braden said when asked what evidence supports that Meredith allegedly acted in a manner that constitutes a first-degree murder charge. “Given that he used a firearm, he had to point it at the child and then squeeze the trigger. I think that creates an inference of malice of forethought, as well as premeditation. He had the chance to abort the action and he made a conscious decision not to.”

A search of the home revealed a still-loaded pistol, another magazine and numerous rounds of ammunition concealed inside of a closed cardboard box on Ceasar’s bed, as well as a spent shell casing matching the ammunition in the box on the couch where Meredith was alleged to have been sitting.

It is unclear who owned the gun or how it was obtained, though Meredith told police it was stolen by someone and handed off to another person before that person later gave it to Ceasar.

Braden said the origin of the gun, a Ruger 9-mm semiautomatic pistol, is being investigated and that it has not been determined if it was given to the victim or obtained directly by Meredith, but that it is believed to have been stolen. 

Rohloff said his department is working to establish the source of the weapon to determine whether its coming into possession of minors was the result of another crime, be it theft of a gun or child endangerment for not properly locking up the weapon. 

Rohloff urged gun owners to store their guns safely by following National Rifle Association guidelines and training. 

More: How can gun owners stay legal, safe under Iowa’s new law? A Des Moines County sheriff explains

“One child is dead and the other is facing extremely severe consequences,” Rohloff said. “Had the gun not been accessible, this may not have happened.”

Rohlhoff said surviving residents of the home from which the gun was recovered were not aware it was in the house. 

District Court Judge Tyron Rogers on Thursday set Meredith’s bail at $1 million cash only and appointed the Public Defenders Office to represent him. 

A preliminary hearing for Meredith is scheduled for 11 a.m. Nov. 12 at the North Lee County Courthouse. 

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