GRAND RAPIDS — After the drive-by murder of a 16-year-old boy he did not know, Kyle Keenan — alone and on the lam — made a phone call to relatives talking about heaven and suicide.
"He was asking the family would he still go to heaven if he committed suicide. We told him, 'Don't kill yourself, boy,'" said his uncle, Larry Keenan.
Tuesday afternoon Larry Keenan recalled those words moments after he was shattered to hear from police that his 21-year-old nephew shot himself in a hotel room as armed police in riot gear closed in.
Grand Rapids police had been seeking Keenan for four days.
Tuesday afternoon they received a tip that the younger Keenan was in a room at the America's Best Inns & Suites on 28th Street near Buchanan Avenue, so they and Wyoming police surrounded the Southwest Side hotel.
As police approached, two men tried to flee from separate exits. An officer spotted a weapon, yelled "gun" and the suspects rushed back inside
At one point police heard a single gun shot. They captured Keenan's acquaintance as he fled the hotel, Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk said later.
It took about 40 minutes to evacuate the hotel before police peered inside to see Keenan disabled and on the ground. The captured acquaintance didn't tell police Keenan had shot himself, Belk said.
Police closed off eastbound 28th Street traffic at Buchanan during the evacuation.
One barefoot 53-year-old man wearing shorts and carrying a plastic bag walked along 28th Street.
"The police are serious about catching this man; they wouldn't even let me go back in and get my shoes," he said.
The man, who declined to identify himself, said he heard "a big boom" and came out of his room to investigate. "One of the guys was running down the hallway, and police told me to leave. He looked serious. I was scared," he said.
Keenan on Saturday was identified as a suspect in the drive-by shooting of Creston High School student David Witherspoon on Friday afternoon.
The 16-year-old was killed in a hail of gunfire as two people in a white Dodge Neon sprayed at least five shots into the crowd at Kalamazoo Avenue near Griggs Street SE. Police said Keenan was the gunman, and no motive was known.
Keenan's family huddled around a cruiser Tuesday afternoon, their grief obvious as police said Keenan died from a self-inflicted wound.
The elder Keenan walked past the cruisers and onto a vacant parking lot as two young women with tears streaming down their faces clung to a cell phone.
Keenan started punching his fist into a vacant garage, wailing "Why, why," and weeping.
He said his nephew started out as "a good kid, then he got caught up in this life."
"He went to Messiah Baptist Church, he was a good boy until this."
His grandmother used to daily drive him to and from his factory job on 28th Street SE. They didn't know his whereabouts after Friday but received a call from him asking about suicide and heaven.
In the call, Keenan talked to his grandmother about death. "He asked her could he still go to heaven if he committed suicide," Larry Keenan reported.
He said the family told the youth, "Don't kill yourself boy, don't do that."
The elder Keenan added, "What makes it so bad is he didn't even know that boy he shot."
He added that his nephew participated in a "stop the violence" seminar at Creston High School with WJNZ owner Robert S. Womack a couple years ago.
Chief Belk said even though witnesses identified Keenan as the shooter, there is no reason to feel good about the outcome.
"Another family is hurting," he pointed out.