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June 30, 2008
Terrance Kelly did everything he could to sidestep gangs and danger. But then a 15-year-old gunned him down, leaving other athletes wondering how they could avoid the same fate
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June 30, 2008

The Hardest Loss

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Terrance Kelly did everything he could to sidestep gangs and danger. But then a 15-year-old gunned him down, leaving other athletes wondering how they could avoid the same fate

THE MURDER of Oregon-bound football star Terrance Kelly on Aug. 12, 2004, not only demonstrated the cavalier attitude toward life in Richmond, Calif., but it also extinguished what should have been an uplifting story of a teen using sports to overcome adversity. Landrin Kelly, Terrance's father, was a drug dealer and a prominent Richmond street figure by the time he was 18, when Terrance was born. With Terrance's mother living in San Francisco, the boy fell under the watchful eye of Landrin's mother, Bevlyn, a stern woman who ran a day-care center out of her home.

When Terrance was a toddler, Landrin served six months in a work-furlough program for possession of narcotics with intent to sell, but he eventually turned away from the streets, finding purpose as the coach of Terrance's baseball and football teams. "It was hard to leave the life," Landrin says. "The lavish cars and the money, it was good and easy. But I didn't want to be like my friends, locked up with six babies and not part of their lives."

Kids from the neighborhood goaded Terrance regularly, provoking him into fights. They would accuse him of thinking he was better than they were because of the Catholic elementary school where his grandmother had enrolled him. When he was accepted to De La Salle High in Concord, and played for its heralded football program, the challenges intensified. "You think you are all that because you go to De La Salle," kids would say, to which he would answer, "No, you think I am all that because I go to De La Salle."

It was not only jealousy, Landrin says, but also a perverse logic that pervades Richmond's Iron Triangle and other harsh neighborhoods like it: Someone striving for a different life insults those who do not. "It's like crabs in a bucket," he says. "They don't want to see anyone get out of the bucket."

One of the crabs reaching for Terrance was 15-year-old Darren Pratcher. Friends said Darren had a beef with Terrance, perhaps over his team's defeating Darren's in a three-on-three community basketball tournament the previous year. Terrance's athletic success, his popularity with girls, the fact that his family lived in a safer neighborhood on the south side of Richmond might also have accounted for Darren's resentment. During Darren's trial, a prosecutor showed the jury a placard with a rap lyric that Darren had written: "If you ain't from our part of town, you're a [expletive] target."

According to grand jury testimony obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, Darren borrowed a .22-caliber Marlin rifle from a neighbor who made sure to wipe his fingerprints off the gun before handing it over. ("That's just how I was raised," the neighbor explained in court.) One of Darren's friends told the grand jury that Darren was concerned after the father of a girl he had shot earlier that day with a pellet gun had come looking for him. But it was Terrance Kelly who arrived in Darren's neighborhood at around 10:40 p.m. to pick up the son of Landrin's girlfriend.

Terrance, a 6'1", 215-pound Super Prep All-America outside linebacker in high school, had spent most of the summer at Oregon with his future teammates and was home for only a few days before returning for practice, at which he was expected to challenge for a starting spot as a safety. He pulled his father's white Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in front of the son's girlfriend's house and used his cellphone to let him know he had arrived. Minutes later Darren fired the first shot from three feet outside the passenger door. When the car started rolling, he walked alongside it and fired at least three more times, working the bolt action on the rifle between shots. Bullets hit Terrance twice in the right cheek, in the head and in the back.

When Bevlyn arrived at the scene, she saw her grandson's body and yelled, "Landrin, Landrin, is that our baby?"

"Yeah, Mom, that's our baby," Landrin said.

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