A single gunshot in 1999 altered 5-year-old Mark James Jr.’s world.
He spent the next 19 years clinging to memories of riding around Palm Beach County in his big brother’s car and racing with him to Chuck-E-Cheese’s, only to learn it was closed. The bullet a teenager fired into Corey Bush’s head killed not only the 22-year-old but also a piece of the little boy who idolized him.
On Thursday, gunfire at the Stony Plaza on Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard Jr. killed that no-longer-little boy and seriously injured a 24-year-old woman.
James was 25.
His former Palm Beach Lakes High School classmates remembered funnyman Mark “Is that LeBron?” James as someone hard not to like.
“He was a people person,” said former classmate Kimberly Thompson. “I remember how he use to make the whole science class laugh.”
James’ sister, Eriel Bush, said her little brother had Olympic-sized dreams. He was saving money for a trip to Tokyo to see the 2020 Summer Olympics, she said. He wanted to see — and to seize — the world, she said.
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He started at home, readjusting to life in West Palm Beach after a stint in prison for theft. He quickly landed a job at the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority, his family said, and spent his free time indulging his 14 nieces and nephews as only a doting uncle can.
In fact, he spent his last morning alive bonding with his newborn niece, Bush said.
She isn’t sure why — or how — her brother ended up in Riviera Beach. James’ friend told The Post he reached out to her that afternoon asking for a ride to Riviera Beach to go to a relative’s home, but she wasn’t able to drive him.
“I don’t know what could have led up to (the shooting or) what happened,” Bush said, “but he was not a troubled person. He was very loving, caring and kind-hearted.”
Police said James was with a group of people who began to argue, then to fight, at the plaza near the Stonybrook Apartments.
A man in the group, who was not involved in the fight, opened fire at about 4 p.m., police said, killing James and seriously injuring the woman. Someone drove her to a hospital, according to authorities. She has life-threatening injuries. James died at the plaza.
Police have neither publicly identified anyone in the group nor said what sparked the argument. They have a suspect description, a spokeswoman said, but would not publicly comment on it. The spokeswoman said that James appeared to have been the intended target.
Last month, on what would have been Bush’s 42nd birthday, James posted a tribute to his big brother.
“Even after 19 years the pain still hurts so much,” James wrote on Facebook. “You ask 100 people about Corey Bush and you get the same answer. Have yet to meet someone to speak negative about you.”
Bush said the same could be said for James, whose Facebook page is flooded with posts of disbelief that yet another young man’s life ended in gun violence.
“Just wish you could see the transformation I’ve made in life,” James wrote in the post to his brother. “I’m gone make you proud, brah. I swear.”
Police are asking anyone with information to contact them at 561-845-4123 or call Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County at 800-458-TIPS (8477).