‘Jayda will never be forgotten’: Family and friends gather to remember mall shooting victim

Cheryl Huffman lays flowers by the photo of Jayda Woods-Johnson.
Pastor Sean Perez begins the vigil with a prayer.

About 200 people attended a vigil at Mountlake Terrace High School Sunday night to remember the life of 13-year-old Jayda Woods-Johnson — the Brier Terrace Middle School student killed by errant gunfire at Alderwood Mall July 3. 

Pastor Sean Perez opened the vigil with a prayer, followed by stories and memories shared by family members, friends, students and community members.

“I know Jayda would be so happy right now to see so many people care about her,” said Macy Nearing, a close friend of Woods-Johnson. “There’s so many things I could have said, but I never told you.”

Macy Nearing (left), a close friend of Jayda Woods-Johnson, recalls both the good and the difficult times they had shared.
One of Jayda’s friends cries as the three recall the wonderful times they had together in school.
Alexander Diaz, a seventh-grade teacher at Brier Terrace Middle School, remembers how helpful Jayda was with other students in her class.

Family and friends shared their memories of Woods-Johnson as a track athlete and her love of the Vampire Diaries series and the film The Notebook.

Wood-Johnson was shot at about 6:05 p.m. July 3 at the Alderwood Mall food court. According to Lynnwood police, an altercation broke out between two groups of teenagers, at which point a teen male pulled out a handgun and fired at least one shot. The victim was nearby and wasn’t part of the conflict, authorities said.

The suspect in a shooting was released Friday from Denney Juvenile Justice Center in Everett on a $500,000 bond, according to news reports. Officials in Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office said that as of Monday morning, a charging decision has not been made in the case and no court dates have been set.

In Washington state, the standard premium paid on a bail bond is 10% of the total amount, which didn’t sit well with some of those attending the vigil.

“I 100% agree that him being able to get out for $50,000 – the price of a car – he is able to sleep at home, get a homecooked meal, being supported by his family while we have to go to an event like this,” said Cali Huffman, who is Woods-Johnson’s cousin. 

Cali Huffman (right), Jayda’s cousin, consoles a friend during her talk.
Lynnwood City Council President George Hurst speaks as (L-R) Councilmembers Josh Binda and Julieta Altamirano Crosby look on.

Lynnwood Council President George Hurst said that he and the other councilmembers have been discussing ways to address gun violence. Ideas include financial support for organizations that work to prevent gun violence and a public event addressing gangs.

“Those are some of the immediate things we can do, but in the long term, we’re going have to find out – when an investigation is done – what started this, where did the gun come from?” Hurst said.

“It is completely unacceptable, it’s a failure on our end,” added Councilmember Josh Binda. “People like Jayda [who] do not deserve anything like this are always caught up in situations like this.”

“I want to see justice, and justice will be and can be served for Jayda,” said Selena Taylor, who lost her son to a shooting in 2021.

Selena Taylor spoke on behalf of Woods-Johnson’s parents – Jeremy and Tabatha – and cousin Cheryl Huffman. Taylor said that she had lost her 26-year-son Ezra to a shooting in 2021 in Des Moines, Washington. “We went to trial for six weeks,” she said. “We had a sentencing. It was life without the possibility of parole, and I’m here today for her and for him [Ezra] because I understand. Losing a child is not easy for a parent to go through. [It] is not something you plan everyday. I’m here to let you know it’s OK not to be OK. You see all these people here is a community of Jayda and Jayda will never be forgotten, I promise you that.”

After Perez closed the event with a prayer and moment of silence, candles were handed out to the attendees and then were lit. The flames grew a little brighter with each passing minute as the sky darkened. Many knelt by the pictures of Woods-Johnson to leave flowers and offer a short prayer. 

A photo of Jayda at the vigil.
Attendees leave flowers and say prayers for Jayda.

“I want to see justice, and justice will be and can be served for Jayda,” Taylor said. 

A GoFundMe account set up by Cheryl Huffman has exceeded its $40,000 goal.

— Story and photos by Nick Ng

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