16-year-old charged with rival’s murder

Victor Donaldson and Ja'Paris Rodgers (undated Facebook photos)

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — People living in the area of the 100 block of Riley Street in Holland Township say they’re used to teenagers walking the streets at night.

But one says Thursday night was different. There was tension in the air.

“Once in a while you’ll hear laughing and screaming,” said resident Linda Ross. “But nothing like it was last night. It was very scary.”

That tension boiled over to violence around 11 p.m. when 16-year-old Victor Donaldson met up with 18-year-old Ja’Paris Rodgers on the bike path the runs along the north side of Riley Street near a township fire station.

Both were known to be in separate gangs. Both were known to have a beef with each other.

“There’s no indication that this was any kind of planned or lying-in-wait type of incident,” Ottawa County Sheriff’s Cpt. Mark Bennett said. “It really appears as though it may have been a happenstance meeting.”

Investigators said Donaldson stabbed Rodgers in the chest several times. He later died at the hospital.

Donaldson fled but was caught – thanks to information from friends and relatives – four hours later as he hid at a Holland Township home.

Friday afternoon, Donaldson, who is five months shy of his seventeenth birthday, appeared before a judge and was charged as an adult with open murder.

The video arraignment of Victor Donaldson, 16, who is the suspect in the murder of 18-year-old Ja'Paris Rodgers. (Aug. 1. 2014)
(The video arraignment of Victor Donaldson)

The judge ordered Donaldson to be held in the county jail without bond, away from the adult population, to avoid gang violence at the county juvenile facility.

The judge also had to appoint a guardian to represent Donaldson during his arraignment when no parents or relatives showed up for the hearing.

Indications that the stabbing was gang related come as no surprise to residents in the neighborhood where the crime occurred.

While many think gangs are a city problem, the neighborhood has seen sporadic activity for years, and the sheriff’s department has worked closely with the Holland Department of Public Safety and others to combat the problem.

“The folks involved in this activity – and again it is a small percentage but a menacing percentage – they tend to move around between the city and the township,” Bennett said.

Caught in the middle are the residents.

Linda Ross said she talked with a deputy in the neighborhood Friday to get some reassurance.

“I asked him if there as anything we should be concerned about… he said right now, they’re worried about retaliation,” she said.

The deputy told Ross extra patrols would be on hand Friday night.

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