D.J. Jones of Town Creek said he ran for cover when he heard somebody shout “he’s got a gun” outside of a Lawrence County lounge early Sunday morning.
Jones said that a few seconds later, two shots rang out and his best friend had been fatally wounded alongside Lawrence County 268 near the lounge north of Town Creek.
Akeem Montez Koger, 30, a former Hazlewood High athlete who lived in Lawrence County’s Red Bank community, was transported by a private vehicle to Helen Keller Hospital in Tuscumbia, where he died in the emergency room, authorities said.
Lawrence County Sheriff’s Capt. Chris Waldrep said investigators have talked with witnesses and a suspect has been questioned, but no arrests had been made by Monday afternoon. He said the shooting occurred about 2:50 a.m. Sunday.
Investigators said they are unsure of a motive for the shooting.
Lawrence County Coroner Scott Norwood said Koger’s body has been sent to the state forensics office in Huntsville for an autopsy. Norwood said it is standard procedure to order an autopsy in a homicide case. “It’ll be probably the end of the week before we have preliminary results,” Norwood said.
Sheriff Max Sanders said the investigation is continuing.
Jones said he and Koger, whose nickname was “Funnie,” had been “at a birthday party earlier in the evening and then we were outside YKN Lounge just hanging out. There was some commotion going on next to the road, and I heard somebody shout ‘he’s got a gun.’ I ran and hid behind a car. I didn’t want to get hit by a stray bullet. I heard two shots. The first shot hit Funnie, and the second was up in the air to get people to scatter, I guess.”
Jones, a former Hazlewood football star who retired in 2018 after a six-year career in the NFL, said Koger helped make his moves to different cities as a professional athlete easier.
Jones said when he was released by the Miami Dolphins in 2014 and signed by the New England Patriots the next day, Koger carried the furniture out of his apartment and drove 25 hours to Boston and helped unpack.
“He was carrying furniture on the top of his head,” Jones said. “Mom and Dad compared him to Superman when he was moving the couch, chest of drawers, beds into the apartment.”
Jones said Koger worked his football camps in North Courtland and Tanner that were free for the young campers.
“Funnie was like the president of the camps. He had a big heart and was always helping mentor the kids in the community,” Jones said. “He gave $1,000 to help the (R.A. Hubbard) girls basketball team go to a camp last summer.”
Jones said he stayed several months with Koger in Birmingham when Koger was working on his business degree at Miles College.
Koger experienced tragedy in 2004 during his sophomore year at Hazlewood High when his two sisters and a brother died in a fiery crash on Lawrence County 184.
Former Hazlewood High basketball coach Shane Childress said the Koger siblings were on their way to school and the car they were in collided with an 18-wheeler. Akeem was not in the car, Childress said.
“I’ll never forget that day,” Childress said. “He lost his brother and sisters in an instant.”
Childress said he was “deeply saddened” to hear of Akeem Koger’s death. Koger played forward for the Hazlewood basketball team.
“He loved sports, especially basketball,” he said. “He was a great student and recently has been helping bring the youth league program back to Town Creek. He was always trying to help out the young athletes and cheerleaders. He recently carried some of the older kids to visit colleges. He was a great volunteer and mentor to these kids. If you could get Akeem on the same page as you, everybody else would follow. He was a true leader.”
Community leaders said Koger was the vice president of the Hubbard Educational Athletic League (HEAL). The league has a mission of uniting the Courtland and Town Creek communities.
Childress, math teacher at R.A. Hubbard High School in North Courtland, said he last saw Koger at Hubbard’s football game at Cherokee on Aug. 22.
“He was always trying to make everybody else do better,” he said.