Fresno City College baseball player Deondre Howard was killed in a shooting early Saturday morning in northwest Fresno.
Howard, 21, was outside the home of a family member in the 4600 block of North Charles Avenue around 1:26 a.m. when he and his 16-year-old brother were approached by a black male who began shooting at them, Fresno police said. Howard and his brother were shot at the scene. Both were taken to Community Regional Medical Center, where Howard died two hours later.
His brother, who police did not name, was grazed by a bullet and has been released from the hospital, police said.
Neither brother had a criminal history and “there are no signs at this time that this is gang related” according to a news release from the Fresno Police Department, which added “From all accounts, Howard had a bright future.”
No arrests had been made as of 2 p.m. Saturday, Lt. Mark Salazar said. If anyone has information on the case, they are urged to call detective Richard Tacadena at 559-621-2448.
Howard, known popularly by his nickname “Day Day,” graduated in 2013 from Edison High, where he excelled in baseball and football, playing varsity in both all four years.
He helped the Tigers to Central Section championships in both sports; starting at cornerback his freshman year in Edison’s 23-7 victory at Frontier for the D-II title in 2009. As a junior, he pitched the final two outs in a 6-2 Tigers victory against Mt. Whitney for the D-II baseball crown in 2012.
The left-handed pitcher, a three-time Fresno Bee baseball All-Star, notched 24 wins with 324 strikeouts in 3372/3 innings in his career.
“Day Day Howard is that example of love and dedication,” Edison baseball coach Cliff Rold said. “He was that guy – he touched all corners of our community with his spirit and his character.”
“I’m telling you, you can go to the edges of Fresno County – north, south, east, west – and you’re going to find out this young man touched a lot of hearts in a lot of ways. Baseball and football were the instruments he used,” Rold added. “It was in his heart to love and succeed.”
It was always more about heart than size, Howard told The Bee in 2011: “It’s about having the greatest heart to play at the highest level. It doesn’t matter about size; it’s about production on the field,” Howard said then. “It bothers me when they always look at size in the pros. Some big guys don’t have heart; anybody who has heart should make it, no matter what.”
Heart was one of his greatest qualities, said Edison football coach Matt Johnson, who was a Tigers assistant when Howard was at Edison.
“The young guy is really a legend,” Johnson said. “In his little 5-foot-nothing frame he was really, in my opinion, the best pound-for-pound athlete that I’ve ever seen. Great heart.”
Even after graduating, Howard and his warm personality were welcome on the Edison school campus. He had been at the football practice all week – being “Day Day all week,” Rold said – and he was at the Tigers’ football season opener against Buchanan on Friday night at Sunnyside Stadium, working a sideline camera for the Tigers.
Johnson said the team “will definitely be honoring Day Day on our uniforms the rest of the season.” He’s also looking to have decals honoring the former player printed on each helmet.
Howard carried his infectious spirit to Fresno City College, where he played baseball and football. The Rams teams also are planning on remembering Howard with a patch or decal.
He had eight tackles during his freshman year, before most recently focusing on baseball, where he appeared in seven games, throwing 8 1/3 innings for a 3.24 ERA to go with three strikeouts and one save as part of a Rams team that lost to San Joaquin Delta in the state Final Four.
“He was a kid that I was always goofing with,” said Fresno City pitching coach Eric Solberg. “(Howard) had a real chance of being a big part of the team this year. Last year, he was a guy in the middle of team huddles getting everybody ready and fired up. Most of all, I will remember and miss his smile and making him laugh.”
Teammate Logan Poisall posted the following to Instagram: “Words can’t express how I feel right now. Always a smile on your face man and making the people around you smile. I love you man you’re my best bud, his life taken too early but I know you’re in a better place looking over me. RIP Bud I love you.”
Baseball coach Ron Scott added that “our heart goes out to the whole family and everyone who has been around him. His smile lit up the dugout. He was a super kid.”
It was the 31st murder in Fresno this year, police said, compared to 35 at this time last year.