Sitting in a conference room in the Indianapolis City-County Building on Monday morning, the family of Elijah Ellis looked toward television cameras and pleaded with the community for answers.
“Come forward. Turn yourself in,” said Tomeika Ellis, the 20-year-old’s mother, her voice breaking. “What if it was you? What if it was somebody in your family? What would you want someone to do?”
Somebody knows something about Ellis’ July 29, 2021, shooting death, the family said, and police tell them they’re missing just one little piece of the puzzle. They want anyone with information to contact Indianapolis Metropolitan Police so those responsible can be brought to justice.
Ellis was shot to death inside his car at the intersection of West 47th Street and Georgetown Road about 9:45 p.m. Family members told reporters Ellis left home that evening to go to a nearby gas station when people in a car pulled up alongside him and fired about nine shots at him. He had only been gone for 15 minutes.
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“Nobody seems to care that this is happening to our youth,” said Laurinda Horton, Ellis’ godmother. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Those feelings of confusion and grief are all too familiar in the Indianapolis community over the past several years. Ellis’ death marked the 145th criminal homicide of 2021, according to an IndyStar review of homicide data, and it wasn’t the last. The city ended the year with 249 criminal homicides — topping the all-time homicide record set the previous year.
No arrests have been made in the case, and police on Monday said there are no new leads in the investigation. Family members think the shooting might have been the result of apparent bullying that began years prior. Ellis had been beat up by a group of people in high school, they said, and those people continued to harass Ellis at his various jobs over the years.
Ellis had appeared worried in the days before the shooting, family added, and talked about going to Florida soon, where he had long planned to go to school before continuing to pursue a career in acting in Los Angeles.
“He wanted to be an actor since he was 3, and he knew he had to buckle down and work to get his goals accomplished,” said Horton, whom Ellis considered another grandmother.
Ellis was constantly thinking about and planning for his future outside of Indianapolis, Horton said. He had been in a Dr. Pepper advertisement in 2019 and recently got his GED. Horton said Ellis wanted to go to college in Florida to become a dental hygienist — “he knew he had to have something to back him up when he got to L.A.,” she said.
Charlesetta Cook, Ellis’ grandmother, said the months since her grandson’s death have been the hardest of her life. “We’re not eating well, we’re not sleeping well,” she said. “I don’t understand it.”
But there are still happy memories. A few years ago, the family took Ellis to Los Angeles. He walked around like he owned the place. In 2019, they took a vacation through Arizona and Nevada. “He had a ball,” Horton said.
Still, not being able to be with Ellis is an unbearable thought for the family. They wear shirts bearing the man’s name alongside the words: “The moment your heart stopped beating, mine changed forever.”
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His family and friends have necklaces with his photo. The family has his ashes.
And while some who knew Ellis might talk of retaliation, the family said they discourage that. No parents, they said, should have to bury their children.
“I just want the killing to stop,” Horton said.
Police and family ask anyone with information about this case to contact the IMPD Homicide Office at 317-327-3475. Tips can be given anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 317-262-8477.