Evan Gaines and his girlfriend already had baby names picked out.
After he graduated from University of South Carolina Upstate in May, he and Andreauna Williams were going to get settled in for a couple years, maybe get married and have kids — the boy’s name would be EJ (Evan Jr.) and their daughter’s Eris Jisselle, Williams said in a Facebook post.
But Gaines, a 22-year-old senior business major from Columbia, never got to graduate. He never got to get married and he never got to have children. On March 26, he was found shot to death outside an off-campus apartment complex just miles from the school.
“As a parent and one who watched this kid go from boy to man, all I can tell you is that Evan Gaines was a humble young man I love like a son, and my heart goes out to my beautiful friend, his mother, Erika Holmes and the Gaines family,” said Cynthia Neal, a Gaines family friend.
Gaines was raised in Columbia. He attended Lewis Greenview Elementary, W.G. Sanders Middle School and W.J. Keenan High School, Richland 1 school district spokeswoman Karen York said in an email.
At W.G. Sanders, he was a guard on the basketball team and made honor roll throughout his time there, said Annestacia Green, who said she was Gaines’ computer teacher in middle school and attended church with him at Central Baptist Church off Huger Street.
“He was very outgoing. He loved fashion. He was very friendly. He was smart, as well.” Green said. “He was very passionate about his education.”
But the memory of Gaines that stood out to her the most was, “his smile. He always smiled,” she said.
“He will be truly missed,” Green said.
Friends, who have been hashtagging #JusticeFor Evan and #EverythingForEvan to bring light to his unsolved homicide, said Gaines felt like a member of the family.
“You don’t get too many real brothers in life. With you, I had one,” Roderick Jones, a close friend of Gaines, wrote in a Facebook post. “Smallest one of the crew but I swear you had the biggest heart ... You will forever be with me in everything I do. I love you dearly, brother.”
Since Gaines’ death, the university has been encouraging students to utilize on-campus counseling services.
“This is a distressing time for our campus community and we will continue to ensure that students, faculty and staff have access to counseling and other resources that may be helpful,” USC Upstate spokeswoman Jessica Blais said in an email.
Police are investigating the shooting as a homicide, but have released few details. Gaines died of a single gunshot wound, Spartanburg Coroner Rusty Clevinger said Tuesday.
Police have still not said whether Gaines was shot at the apartment complex where his body was found or elsewhere. They have not said where on his body Gaines was shot, what type of weapon was used, nor identified a possible motive or suspect.
Williams and Gaines’ family could not be reached for comment.
Gaines’ funeral will be at noon on April 3 at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1028 Eastman St., according to a post from Leevy’s Funeral Home.