A 20-year-old man who advocated for youth jobs was killed in cold blood Friday after playing basketball at an Oceanview recreation center, according to police, his mentors and devastated community members.
Lawrence Collins, whose 21st birthday would have been this week, was shot in the head just before
7 p.m. after he left the gymnasium at the Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreational Center near Capitol Avenue and Montana Street.
At the scene Monday, longtime resident Reggie Dixon, 63, said Collins was “shot right there by the big slide,” which apparently was only yards from Collins’ childhood home.
Police have been tight-lipped about the investigation. There had been no arrests as of Monday, Officer Albie Esparza said.
Compounding the tragedy was the fact that both of Collins’ parents had passed away in the past 18 months, Dixon said.
The death has stunned Collins’ mentors, who described him as a “born leader” with incredible potential.
“He was really the star of our youth center,” said Laurel Moeslein, the senior case manger for Inner City Youth, a violence-prevention program serving Oceanview. “He could have been mayor, and I’m not exaggerating.”
About a year ago, Collins was chosen by his peers to speak at the youth employment program’s graduation, Moeslein said. He also frequented midnight basketball and was a “star” at the Department of Public Works’ summer internship program, she added.
However, Collins had run-ins with the law. He was reportedly let out of jail about two weeks before his death.
Still, activist Mike Brown said, Collins’ seemingly endless potential made his death particularly tragic.
“He was one of the guys that participated in the early voting [outreach] with us,” Brown said. “He would talk to other young kids about staying in school and doing the right thing.”
The neighborhood has endured a rash of killings in the past 18 months, Moeslein said. A multifaceted approach, not just more police, is needed to deal with the problem, she said.
Dixon suggested installing surveillance cameras in the area where the shooting occurred.
“If these kids want to fight, send them to Iraq,” he said.