Trevon McKoy, 21, whom family and friends remember as driven and hardworking, was fatally shot early Sunday near Seattle Center. No arrests have been reported.

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It had to have been a bad April Fool’s joke.

Trey Gable knew something was off when he picked up his phone Sunday. It was strange that his friends from his old neighborhood were all together, somewhere outside. But he never expected to hear that Trevon McKoy, the magnetic kid he grew up with, had been shot and killed that morning near Seattle Center.

“Everybody’s really distraught,” Gable, better known as rapper Mackned, said in a phone interview. “It’s really rare. I just can’t believe it. … This violence has to stop, bro.”

A week earlier, McKoy, a promising young rapper performing as JuiceTheGod, was in Los Angeles, where Gable is now based, shooting a music video. Though the longtime friends weren’t able to spend much time together, they texted and FaceTimed frequently, with McKoy often seeking music-industry advice from his “big bro,” who was four years older and more established. Though McKoy, 21, had only been rapping for a few years, Gable described him as “our young, rising star out of my hood.”

“He always had swag,” Gable said. “I never doubted him.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, no arrests had been made.

Friends, family and former teachers gathered on Sunday for a vigil at 24th Avenue Southwest and Southwest Kenyon Street, near where McKoy had grown up and lived with his great-grandmother who raised him with his extended family, though both of his biological parents were involved in his life.

Family support

The charismatic basketball star who went to Franklin High School had a “good childhood” and was “spoiled rotten” and “sheltered” by five aunts and an uncle who treated him like their own, according to Wendy Adams, one of his aunts.

“We didn’t even want to let him catch the bus,” she said. “We would pick him up, at 17 years old, to and from basketball practice — we still picked him up! We were, like, ‘He needs to learn how to catch the bus (laughs).’ ”

McKoy’s friends and family remember him as a driven, hardworking and generous kid who was all smiles and, according to Adams, still always left the house with a basketball under his arm, despite finding a new passion in music. His friend Amir Muhammad recalled McKoy handing out clothes and shoes to homeless people along Delridge Avenue Southwest last Christmas Eve. Lately, he’d been talking about doing a food giveaway in Pioneer Square.

McKoy met his father for the first time at 15, and several men in his family had been incarcerated, which Adams said he used as motivation to go in a more positive direction. “Trevon, he knew that he didn’t want to live that life,” she said. “The good thing about it is, he knew that somebody else’s past and the things that they had going on had no control over his future.”

Last year, McKoy landed on the Seattle hip-hop community’s radar with a video for his Master P riff “Make Em Say (Remix),” which was filmed outside a West Seattle community center where he and Gable used to hang out. Many of his songs posted on SoundCloud show reverence for the ’90s rap an uncle turned him on to, sounding like a more contemporary Rap-A-Lot-goes-to-Cali than anything currently coming out of Seattle.

“He sounds different,” said DJ/producer Shakir Robinson, who performed with McKoy the night he died. “A lot of people out here sound like they’re trying to mimic somebody, but Juice is original.”

That night

The last thing McKoy and Muhammad talked about Saturday night was going back to school on Monday. The close friends had spent nearly every day together the last few years while attending Bellevue College on and off and playing basketball. Since neither of them had cars, getting to class from West Seattle was “a new mission” every morning, but somehow they always made it. “They (people) see JuiceTheGod, but a lot of rappers, you don’t know they’re about to graduate college,” said Muhammad, who is also Robinson’s brother.

That night, McKoy was playing a semiprivate birthday party at the Vera Project for another friend. Robinson, aka Bass Kids On the Beat, was DJing the party, which ended at 2 a.m. when the venue closed, he said. The three usually left together in a group, but that night Mc­Koy left separately.

Around 2:10 a.m., 911 calls started coming in to report shots fired at the intersection of First Avenue North and Republican Street, according to Seattle Police. When Seattle police arrived, they found McKoy with a gunshot wound in the head. He was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Robinson didn’t leave the venue until around 2:30 a.m., unaware anything had happened. After dropping off his brother, he saw a Facebook message with the news and rushed back toward the Vera Project. “It was just like you see in the movies — yelling, crying. Everybody just in shock, the lights flickering,” he recalls. “That’s some stuff you never want to see.”

McKoy and Robinson had developed a close working relationship, and Robinson plans to release a mixtape of McKoy’s on his birthday, in accordance with his mother’s wishes. In the days since his death, the views on Juice’s social-media pages have skyrocketed, Robinson said, as even more people find the aspiring rapper’s music posthumously.

“You know how happy he would’ve been right now to see that?” Robinson said. “That’s all he wanted was for the city to back him. And it’s sad that it had to take him to die for people to realize that.”

Said Adams: “He was genuinely a good kid that got stripped of his full potential. But we’re beyond proud of him. We couldn’t ask for another kid.”