‘Why Jonathon?’ Mother searching for answers on son’s shooting death

One minute, he was playing video games with his brother. The next, he’d been shot.

Christina Abney has no idea what the motive was behind the shooting that killed her son, Jonathon Elliott, 14, of Southport, but it was her own foster son, Pedro C. Castillo Salmeron, who pulled the trigger.

The shooting

Castillo Salmeron, 20, of Greenwood was arrested late Saturday night on a preliminary charge of reckless homicide, a Level 5 felony.

When Edinburgh first responders arrived, they found Elliott with a gunshot wound to the chest at a family member’s home in the 600 block of South Pleasant Street.

As firefighters loaded Elliott into the ambulance, he was still alive and told police Castillo Salmeron was the person who shot him, according to a preliminary probable cause affidavit.

“I was playing video games and I felt something hot,” Elliott told police.

Elliott was transported to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where he died.

Castillo Salmeron hasn’t been formally charged yet, but official charges will be filed soon, said Lance Hamner, Johnson County Prosecutor.

Abney heard about the shooting from her son David Brandenburg, who also spoke to police about the incident.

“(Elliott) was sitting on the couch with David playing video games. David said Pedro was messing with a gun and (David) didn’t even know what happened. He heard a pop and John hit the floor,” Abney said.

There were three other children in the house at the time of the shooting, but they were unharmed. Brandenburg told Castillo Salmeron to call for help but the gunman said he couldn’t get the call to go through. Brandenberg then called the owner of the house to tell him about the shooting, followed by 911, according to the affidavit.

After Brandenburg told him he was calling an ambulance, Castillo Salmeron fled the scene and hid the gun. He eventually came back to the house, which is where Edinburgh police apprehended him, the affidavit says.

Castillo Salmeron and Elliott didn’t seem to have disputes beyond typical sibling bickering. But Castillo Salmeron still hasn’t spoken to anyone, including law enforcement, about the shooting, she said.

“I want to know why. Why Jonathon? Why did he have to take my son from me and from his brothers and sisters and from his niece and nephews? Just why? John didn’t deserve that,” Abney said. “Pedro lived with me for almost three years. John looked at him like a brother. For the most part, they got along pretty well. I just don’t understand what happened. Pedro won’t talk to detectives or anyone else about why he did this.”

Remembering Jonathon Elliott

Abney and Elliott’s grandmother, Kathy White, described him as a happy kid who was always willing to help others.

“He loved everybody, he loved listening to music, to bounce his head around and when he did it he’d laugh,” White said. “We’d walk into a room and the dog would be on him and wouldn’t stop kissing him. Everybody loved Jonathan. He had a huge personality. He’d play with his dogs and go out and play and he liked playing video games like all the kids now. He loved dancing around and just being Jonathon.”

Elliott was kind to everyone he met, Abney said.

“John was always a happy, goofy little kid. Everyone he met, he told them he loved them; it didn’t matter if he knew them or not,” she said. “He loved everybody and wanted to help everybody. That’s just how he was.”

After Elliott died, messages of support started pouring in. One message White shared told of a time Elliott helped a man’s grandmother pick up items she dropped at a gas station. Elliott also pumped gas for her. The man offered him $20 for his assistance, which Elliott declined before the man insisted. His grandmother talked about Elliott’s generosity until the day she died, the message said.

Elliott attended Franklin Central Jr. High School on the southeast side of Indianapolis, Abney said.

A memorial service is planned for noon Saturday at Brown County Community Church in Nashville, where Elliott was baptized. White has started a fundraiser to pay for funeral expenses, which people can contribute to by donating to CashApp username $19Kodiak05.

Regardless of the amount they’ve donated, people have already shown their generosity, White said.

“One girl sent me $50, another 18-year-old messaged me and sent me $25 and said she was praying for us. Another young man sent $6 and a prayer. It’s not the amount, but it came from the heart. There are still good people out there, it’s just hard to find them.”