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Last Updated on September 22, 2022 by BVN

“Did You Hear That? I Think It Was A Gunshot!”

The Daniel Dexter Story Part 1

By Aryana Noroozi

A memorabilia box in memory of Daniel sits on Faye’s coffee table. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local) July 29, 2022).

It was supposed to be a new chapter for 22 year old Daniel Dexter and his family. 

Daniel, known as Dex to his family and friends, had just started a new job in shipping at the Ontario Airport and was looking into joining the military. His mother, Lauren Taylor-Mayweather, had just earned her bachelor’s degree and was about to begin nursing school.  

On June 1, the family arrived at Daniel’s younger sister’s elementary school graduation, eager to celebrate. After the ceremony, the family made plans to reconvene that evening and continue the celebration. Daniel and his brother, Daelyn, headed back to their grandmother Faye’s home, where Daniel lived. 

The brothers were excited to spend the next few hours playing basketball, teasing each other about who would take more losses on the court. Both were firmly convinced it would be the other.

A poster-sized photo of Daniel and Daelyn stands in the dining room of their grandmother, Faye.  The brothers were both struck by bullets from an unknown vehicle while playing basketball at Alec Fergusson Park in Rialto on June 1, 2022. Daniel’s injury was fatal. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local) July 29, 2022.)

As the brothers headed out the door, Faye immediately thought about Daniel working that night. Daniel, originally from Adelanto, had moved to Faye’s home in Rialto to be closer to his job at the Ontario Airport.

“Don’t forget you have work tonight,” she told him, her maternal instinct kicking in to ensure Daniel remembered he must leave for work around 2 a.m. 

Daniel assured her that he knew. The brothers exchanged “I love yous” with their grandmother and headed out the door.

On that sunny afternoon, less than a mile from Faye’s home, Daniel,  Daelyn, their cousins and friends played basketball at Alec Fergusson Park but their game was cut short and the brothers did not return home.  

The brothers were both struck by bullets from an unknown vehicle. Daniel’s injury was fatal.

The court where Daniel and  Daelyn were playing basketball, moments before the shooting now stands vacant, a month later on a July afternoon.  (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local) July 18, 2022.)

Over two months later, Faye, who requested that her last name be withheld, says she can’t stop staring at the door. “I wish I had just told him to stay home and make the banana pudding,” she said. “Because it was his favorite.”  

Weeks after his death Faye said the bananas she had bought to teach him the family recipe, remained in the basket.

Left: Faye looks at a photo of Daniel baking in their kitchen. “He loved to cook. And that’s the one thing I really miss because we really bonded,” she said. Right: A peace lily sits in Faye’s kitchen, a place she and Daniel would bond over making meals. “I wish I had just told him to stay home and make the banana pudding,” Faye said. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local) July 29, 2022.)

Michael Denby, who lives across the street from Alec Fergusson Park, was getting ready to head there with his son, Michael Denby Jr. and grandson, Nasir.  

Denby Sr. was preparing to leave when he heard what he thought was a firework. But then he heard another one and another, and they didn’t stop. He quickly realized he was hearing gunshots. He ran to his living room, frantically searching for his son and grandson, and found that they were still inside. He shouted for them to get away from the window, which he then approached. 

Peeking through, Denby could discern someone injured across the street in the park. “I told my wife, ‘something happened, call 911,’” he said. “Meanwhile, I see my son, Michael Jr., he ran across the street.”

Michael Denby (right), his son, Michael Denby Jr. and grandson, Nasir Denby walk at the park beside the knoll where Daniel was shot.  On the day of the incident, Denby and Michael Jr. heard the gunshots from their home and ran to the scene where they found Daniel and Daelyn. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local) July 18, 2022.)

Denby Sr. saw that the park, which moments before was bustling with people, was now empty. He followed his son, and within thirty seconds caught up to him on the grassy knoll beside the basketball courts. 

That’s when he first saw Daniel and his brother Daelyn laying side by side. Both appeared to be struck by bullets. Denby Sr. would later learn, based on forensics, that Daelyn was shot while attempting to help Daniel.  

He tried his best to make Daniel comfortable while Michael Jr. did the same for Daelyn.

“Just looking at Dex’s eyes, they caught me,” said Denby.

“At the time, I wish I knew his name.”

Left: Michael Denby Sr. poses for a portrait at Alec Fergusson Park. Right: Michael Jr. poses for a portrait on his front porch, across the street from the park. He and his father heard the gunshots from their home and ran across the street, where they found Daniel and  Daelyn. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local) July 18, 2022.)

Denby Sr. called out to his wife across the street for towels and water. He told her not to leave their porch, running back and forth to grab the supplies. 

* * *

Faye was still home. She says she can recall what she was doing, down to the very exact place she was sitting at the time: on the couch in her living room, watching television. Her bathroom was under construction and the man working on it had opened a window for ventilation.  He appeared from the hallway into the living room.

Faye sits in the spot she was when a construction worker remodeling her bathroom said he heard gunshots through the window.  She says most mornings she wakes up and forgets all of this is real for just a moment. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local) July 29, 2022.)

“Did you hear that? I think it was a gunshot,” he said.

Faye grabbed her phone and called her grandsons. When they didn’t answer she got in her car and drove to the park.

On the day of Daniel’s death, a construction worker was remodeling Faye’s bathroom and he heard the gunshots through the window. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local) July 29, 2021)

Blocks away, Denby and his son continued trying to bring comfort to Daniel and Daelyn as they waited for emergency services to arrive. An Uber Eats driver also stopped his car to approach the four men. He called his mother who quickly arrived and held a prayer circle around the young men. Soon after, emergency services arrived. 

By the time Faye arrived at the park it was blocked off by Rialto police. She approached them with a photo of her grandsons and soon learned that they were both injured.

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Aryana Noroozi

Black Voice News photojournalist Aryana Noroozi was born in San Diego, California and graduated with a master’s degree from The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Her love for visual storytelling led her to document immigrant and deportee communities and those struggling with addiction. She was a 2020 Pulitzer Center Crisis Reporting Fellow and a GroundTruth Project Migration Fellow. She is currently a CatchLight/Report for America corps member employed by Black Voice News. You can learn more about her at aryananoroozi.com. You can email her at aryana@blackvoicenews.com. More by Aryana Noroozi

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The Daniel Dexter Story – Part 2

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The Daniel Dexter Story

Part 1: “Did you hear that? I think it was a gunshot!”