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
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]
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