Lewis Dickerson saw some of his friends hauled off to prison and others wounded by urban violence, and at age 18 came to want something better out of life.
That's what brought him to the Urban League of Greater Hartford on Woodland Street, where he was studying for his high school equivalency diploma.
"Growing up in Hartford, you see so many things you don't know what path to take," said Andre Martin, 24, who grew up with Dickerson in Hartford. "He started off on the wrong path, but was working to get on the right path." Martin told those who had gathered Friday morning, many holding candles, to remember Dickerson.
On Wednesday, Dickerson, who would have turned 19 in December, fell victim to the violence that his friends said he was trying to escape. Three males lying in wait attacked him while he took a break from class outside the Urban League building, just a block from St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. They stabbed him in the neck and heart. He died the following afternoon at St. Francis.
Police haven't spoken publicly about a motive in the slaying. But a police source said Dickerson was a member of The Ave, a Hartford street gang whose members are said to live along Albany Avenue.
Shereen Dickerson, the victim's cousin, was one of several family members at the memorial observance attended by dozens of friends, classmates and staff.
"Stop the violence. It's too much. Too many kids are leaving. It's too much right now," she said.
Candles held by mourners flickered in a cold wind as a few speakers talked about education as a way out.
"I hope that all of my kids, those who are not here today because it's too hard and too sad, will remember Lewis and come back to school because your education is the most important thing that will help you get out of the violence in this world," said his teacher, Jamie Ruiz.
"He fought hard, but it just wasn't his time," she said.
Dickerson attended Fox Middle School and Weaver High School. He had been with the Urban League since middle school through the Hartford Youth Project, a substance abuse program for adolescents.
In September, he enrolled in the General Educational Development program.
The Rev. Bruce Carter, senior pastor of The Temple of Restoration in Hartford, urged people who know anything about the slaying to come forward.
"All the candles, all the prayers will not bring Lewis back," Carter said. "It won't. But we can stop it from happening again. How? By taking responsibility for what goes on. By telling your friends you're not going to have it."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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