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Portsmouth father killed on National Night Out in 2019 was strong believer in its message, family says

Jamel Howell family.jpg
Posted at 3:31 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 00:04:30-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Tuesday is National Night Out, a time when members of the community and law enforcement agencies get together for a good time and to help build relationships. Two years ago, the lives of one local family were changed forever.

Jamel Howell was shot and killed at his apartment in 2019. His family invited News 3 to come along with them as they visited the site where he was killed.

Photos: Family, friends in disbelief after Portsmouth father’s murder
Jamel Howell

They say they do plan to participate in tonight’s National Night Out events and say Howell was a strong believer in its message.

“This is the first night we’ve been out here since his journey."

Howell’s mother, Debra Jones, says it was an extended member of their family who killed her son.

“He had his son over there, pushing him. That was the last, alive, we seen of him,” she explained.

Photos: Family, friends in disbelief after Portsmouth father’s murder
Jamel Howell

Howell’s family says earlier in the night, he had participated in the National Night Out festivities.

“To know National Night Out was on the night that he died, it’s shocking because it’s supposed to be all about safety,” his daughter, Jakhia Howell, told us.

For Jakhia, coming back here brings a rush of memories.

“He used to live here, work on cars out here, play with me at this park here,” she showed us.

In January, we met with Howell’s daughter and mother and talked about how this tragedy encouraged them to start a group called Kids Against Gun Violence.

Jones says the death of her son is still unreal.

“He was my baby. He was my best friend. He was the one who would call me and say, ‘Momma,’” Jones said. “Can’t nobody say, ‘Momma’ the way he did.”

She said the loss of her son is like a dream she’s waiting to wake up from.

Jones says his message two years ago on this night was, “Trust the policemen. Trust the policemen; they good people.”

Photos: Family, friends in disbelief after Portsmouth father’s murder
Jamel Howell

And on this National Night Out, law enforcement officers hope to gather the support of the community to help make the city safer.

“We are hoping to get out and just see everybody and let them see us on not just their bad days, but on their good days,” said Victoria Varnedoe, public information officer with the Portsmouth Police Department.

Many of Tuesday night’s events are starting at 5 or 5:30 p.m., so there’s still time to get out. You can see a list of some of those here.

And if you can’t get out tonight, Portsmouth Police say another way to get involved is to join your local civic league or sign up for a citizen’s police academy.