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Jonshel Alexander, who gained recognition as an actress following her supporting role in the 2012 Oscar-nominated film “Beasts Of The Southern Wild,” is dead at 22.
On Nov. 27, police responded to shots fired in the 1500 block of North Claiborne Avenue, at the intersection of Columbus Street in New Orleans's Seventh Ward. Upon their arrival, Alexander was found by police lying unresponsive in the street. Emergency medical personnel pronounced her dead at the scene.
An adult male who transported himself to the hospital was also treated for gunshot wounds. Police told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that they believe Alexander and the other victim were in a vehicle together when they were shot.
On Thursday, Orleans Parish Coroner confirmed Alexander’s identity, stating the 22-year-old died from a gunshot wound. Her death has officially been ruled a homicide.
No arrests have been made in the shooting.
Investigators are however actively working to identify a person of interest they believe is possibly connected to the incident. A man wearing a blue ski-mask, white pants and jacket was captured by surveillance cameras near a maroon-colored pickup truck around the time of Alexander’s shooting.
The truck seen in the recording has since been located by police, officials said.
A spokesperson for the New Orleans Police Department declined to comment on a possible motive or release additional information when contacted by Oxygen.com this week.
In 2012, director Benh Zeitlin cast Alexander as Joy Strong in the mesmerizing indie blockbuster “Beasts Of The Southern Wild.” She played a supporting role alongside the film’s main protagonist, played by six-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis.
The film, which told the story of an orphaned Black girl living in a remote bayou community, was built out of a cast of non-actors from Louisiana. The surrealist coming-of-age picture earned an Oscar nomination, as well as awards at both Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival.
Zeitlan, who auditioned more than 4,000 actors before choosing her cast, described Alexander as an “absolute one-of-a-kind, unforgettable, force-of-nature human being.”
“We incorporated a part into the film that was very much inspired by her,” Zeitlin told the Associated Press. “A lot of the lines were written by her, and so much of the character grew out of who Jonshel was."
"Her character in the film is named Joy Strong, which always seemed like a perfect description of Jonshel," he added. "She was a really bright burning light.”
Alexander’s mother, Shelly Alexander, recalled when her daughter became entranced with acting while auditioning for the role.
"She was like, 'I'm going to be in this movie,'" Alexander, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "They fell in love with Jonshel."
The grieving mother described her daughters as “feisty, jazzy, spoiled.”
“She brought life to everything,” Shelly Alexander added. “It was her way or no way. Jonshel was like, 'It's going to be me.'"
According to the the Times-Picayune, Alexander was the youngest of three children. Following high school, she worked as a restaurant hostess.
She also leaves behind a 1-year-old daughter, her family said.
Police are urging anyone with more information related to Alexander’s shooting to contact Detective Brittany Kimbrough with the New Orleans Police Department’s Homicide Unit at 504-658-5300. Anonymous tips can also be submitted through Greater New Orleans Crimestoppers by calling 504-822-1111 or 1-877-903-STOP.
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