ANKENY, Iowa — Eli Reed's parents said their son was affectionate, driven and known for giving good hugs.
Eli's father, Scott Reed, described him as "a dedicated son and a good brother."
The 21-year-old's roommate accidentally shot him on the night of Jan. 25, according to Ankeny police.
"It was heartbreaking. Just horrific. When that phone rang, and it was like 10:25 at night, again, it's that phone call no parent wants," Scott said.
Eli's mother, Mai Ahn Jennings, said she hasn't fully processed the moment she found out.
"I mean you get the call, but in your mind you're not quite accepting of the fact that you just heard that he got shot, so it was pretty numbing and surreal," Jennings said. "It's like you have the information but it's not really soaking in."
Eli died the next morning.
His stepmother, Harmony Reed, said being a constant in Eli's life was a gift.
"I am the lucky one that I got to be a part of his life as long as I did," she said.
Eli was also a Specialist in the Iowa Army National Guard.
"He won, I think it was the Iron Man award at basic training," Scott said. "He was out in front of this whole huge group, this young boy from Altoona, Iowa."
Eli's roommate, John Peak, is being charged with Involuntary Manslaughter and Reckless Use of a Firearm Causing Serious Injury. A criminal complaint said Peak was intoxicated at the time of the shooting.
"It's an open investigation so I don't believe I can say a lot about what I would like to say," Jennings said. "There's a lot of anger, resentment."
Eli's stepfather, Zeeman Jennings, is holding the memories he shared with Eli close to his heart.
"We all grieve in different ways," Jennings said. "My grief is I want to hold on to the memories that I have for him. And that's what keeps me, you know, keeps me rolling."
An online tribute to help Eli's family with expenses has raised $4,900 of a $5,000 goal as of Tuesday night. If you're interested in donating, you can do so here.
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