Update: Hillside High student death ruled self-defense by police, DA. What happened?

Jyireh Holeman
Jyireh Holeman

The death of 17-year-old Hillside High School student Jyireh Lamour Holeman earlier this month has been ruled self-defense, according to police.

“After a thorough investigation by Durham police investigators and a consultation with the Durham County District Attorney’s Office, this case has been ruled as self-defense,” Durham Police Department spokeswoman Kammie Michael said in a statement. “It appears Holeman died during an attempted robbery.”

A man told officers he was walking up the stairs to an apartment when two males, one wearing a mask and armed with a gun, came up behind him and attempted to rob him, Michael said.

The man said he struggled with the man later identified as Holeman over the gun and several shots were fired during the struggle, it said.

“The man then physically subdued the man armed with the gun,” Michael said.

On Wednesday, March 21, police arrested Taijay Devon Surles, 18, of Durham and charged him with attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon in connection with the case.

In addition, Surles was charged with two counts of felony probation violation, two counts of breaking and entering, one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and two drug charges.

As of Thursday evening, he was being held in the Durham County Jail in lieu of $2.5 million bail.

Initially police reported that Holeman had been found lying outside deceased with a gunshot would around 10 p.m. March 3.

Holeman was found at an apartment complex on the 2800 block of Courtney Creek Boulevard.

Police later confirmed that a preliminary autopsy showed Holeman had been strangled.

Holeman’s mother, Shani Holeman, discontinued the conversation when a reporter reached out to her for comment Friday. In a previous interview, she said Jyireh Holeman was a junior at Hillside High.

On Dec. 14, Jyireh Holeman pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon, a misdemeanor, as part of plea deal. He was sentenced to 12 months of probation. The conditions included that he was to enroll and make progress in a high school or GED program, participate in the gang-intervention program Project Build and forfeit guns and any contraband to police.

An arrest warrant was issued for Jyireh Holeman on Feb. 16 for probation violation. According to court documents, his violations included not reporting an address change, failing a drug test and missing an appointment with a probation officer.

Shani Holeman said in the interview earlier this month that her son wasn’t involved with a gang and that there is no connection between his conviction and his death.

Shani Holeman said she was told by detectives that her son had been attending a party to watch Duke play UNC in the teams’ men’s basketball regular-season finale when an altercation broke out.

“I don’t know if he knew them, or if he was just there with friends,” she said.

Detectives told Shani Holeman her son had been strangled by a person who was much larger than him, she said.

Shani Holeman last saw her son around 3 p.m. Saturday, March 3.

Shani Holeman texted her son at 9:15 p.m. March 3, she said. He responded that he was at a friend’s house.

She texted him again around midnight, but he never responded. Shani Holeman and other family members continued to try to reach her son and later reported him missing.

Shani Holeman is a mother of three and Jyireh was her oldest, she said.

“He was a very, very outgoing person,” she said. “Funny. Loved to laugh.”

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

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