SEBRING — Markie Kelajawan McCray, 20, of Lake Placid died Monday as a result of a gunshot wound he sustained Sunday during an Easter celebration in Highway Park.
Family, friends, coaches and coworkers don’t want him to be remembered as a victim or as someone whose mistakes overshadowed the man he was becoming.
McCray had quite a positive impact as an athlete in his time at Lake Placid High School. McCray was a versatile athlete who played varsity football and basketball for the Green Dragons.
McCray was selected to the 2017 Highlands News-Sun All-Highlands Boys Basketball Team.
McCray, who graduated in 2017, played offense, defense and on special teams for the Lake Placid football team that was coached by Jerry Hudnell, who is now the head football coach at Avon Park High School.
“Markie was a great athlete,” Hudnell said Tuesday. “He struggled with his grades but finally got eligible and was very versatile once he got on the field.
“He played receiver, running back and quarterback on offense and defensive back on defense. He was a jack of all trades, really fast and was a beacon of light for us that year,” he said. “Every time we put the ball in his hands something special happened.”
McCray’s death at such a young age is sad, Hudnell said.
“What’s going on in our society is disturbing,” he said. “I’m still in a little shock over his death.”
McCray, 18 at the time, was one of three suspects arrested April 9, 2017 in connection with a robbery of two teens who were playing basketball at H.L. Bishop Park in Lake Placid. He was charged with robbery with a firearm even though it was one of the minors who pulled out the handgun, according to the arrest report.
Through a plea deal, McCray pleaded guilty to assault and battery.
He was arrested for a probation violation in January 2018. McCray was speeding 20 mph over the posted speed limit, a Highlands County Sheriff’s Office arrest report states. When he was pulled over, a stolen gun was found on him as a concealed weapon. A Lake Placid police officer, who performed the traffic stop, wrote in his report that McCray admitted to buying the stolen gun for $150 so that he could go to a party in Avon Park.
AS a result McCray’s probation was revoked. He pleaded to battery and carrying a concealed firearm. McCray was supposed to serve out a term of 150 days in jail but with credit for time served, he was released on April 19.
Kateta James knew McCray well. She will be a grandmother to his son, who will be born in July.
James admits McCray had his fair share of mistakes but felt he made those poor decisions when he was a kid, even if the law does not agree.
She also said that bad things often happen to good people. She gave an example of getting in trouble with the law because of being in someone’s car who had drugs. James said you might have to fight hard to come back from something like that but you had to and it would make you better in the end.
“Markie was a very smart, loving and intelligent man,” James said. “He made some mistakes but he learned from them. He touched the hearts of everyone he encountered in a positive way. He was love (sic).”
James said her daughter and McCray were still seeing each other when he was shot Sunday. She cannot imagine anyone who would target him or intentionally hurt him.
“He got along with everybody — kids, grown ups, pillars of the community,” she said. “I cannot fathom who could do this. Maybe it was a mistake.”
James did state people can sometimes be judged guilty by association. She wanted the community to know what type of person McCray was.
”I only have one word for him. Remarkable,” she said.
James said her daughter is doing okay but they are in prayer and know that God heals.
A phone call to the Lake Placid McDonald’s revealed McCray to be a hard worker with co-workers who admired him.
Manager Eric Olley knew McCray as a co-worker for the past year and a half to two years and outside of work.
“He was amazing,” Olley said. “He was mostly on the grill. He was responsible and stayed late and always had a smile.”
Olley said he would volunteer to work overtime if needed and was a great help in the store. He knew McCray had problems with the law but felt that was not his true character.
“We put the trainees on the line with him until they could work on their own,” Olley said. “He was great with everyone. We never had any issues. He always gave 100%.”
Olley said young men McCray’s age have a hard time because there are not too many profitable jobs in the area but that didn’t stop McCray from trying and doing his best.