NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – He was a star athlete in South Nashville, but at 15-years-old EJ Utley was taken too soon.
Utley was shot and killed in February 2021, on his front porch. Two teens have been charged with his murder and are scheduled to return to court in August.
“It was so random. When I heard it, I didn’t even believe it,” Utley’s cousin Taylor Allen said.
Allen said Utley and 16-year-old Wilton Alexander were friends and teammates. So it was shocking for her to hear that Alexander and 15-year-old Trameisha Farris were allegedly involved.
“I can sleep easier knowing that they are getting what they deserve,” Allen said.
Allen blames the accessibility of guns for the violent cycle among juveniles in Nashville.
“I could go on Instagram and buy a gun right now if I wanted to,” Allen said. “Now everybody thinks having a gun is needed. Well, it’s only needed because everybody else has one.”
Utley’s cousin Janae Bowers said she has attended multiple vigils and funerals for friends that have been killed since Utley’s death.
Bowers said it’s all about an image for teens on social media to appear popular and tough.
“Two teenagers their lives are taken away. And you think that’s cool? That could be you in the next moment,” Bowers said.
Neither know what it will take to change the mindset of teenagers, but they believe changing the gun laws in Tennessee will make it harder for young people to obtain a firearm.
Alexander and Farris could be tried as adults for the charges against them in Utley’s murder.