IM this article to a friend!

January 24, 2004

After Deaf Man Is Fatally Shot, Grieving Family Wonders Why

From: New York Times - Jan 24, 2004


Published: January 24, 2004

No one can figure out why 24-year-old Kevin Lazare was fatally shot in the back at a deserted bus stop in Brownsville, Brooklyn, early yesterday. He had no criminal record and no known enemies, and his wallet was found on him

His family fears that his most serious offense was being deaf.

"If his back is turned, he wouldn't understand what someone was saying to him," said Mr. Lazare's mother, Kathleen Lazare.

Mr. Lazare, a construction worker, had played basketball on Thursday night at a school recreation center near his mother's clothing store, Roots International, as he often did, his family said. At 1:30 a.m. yesterday he was apparently waiting for the B15 bus in front of the school, Intermediate School 275 at Hegeman and Rockaway Avenues, to take him back to his family's house two miles away in the New Lots section.

But an officer a few blocks away heard shots, a law enforcement official said yesterday. When he arrived at the scene there was no one there but Mr. Lazare, lying in a pool of blood with three bullet holes in his North Face parka, law enforcement officials and his family said. If there were witnesses, none have come forward.

There was not much money in Mr. Lazare's wallet, a police official said, but then there had not been much in it at the start of the evening. Mr. Lazare's stepfather and employer, Kenneth Mano, said the young man had asked him for bus fare in the afternoon. Mr. Mano gave him $10 and told him to get home early so they could go to work together the next morning.

Mr. Lazare, deaf since birth, was born in Trinidad and moved to Brooklyn with his family when he was 12. He loved the Los Angeles Lakers and played basketball every chance he got. He dressed in hip-hop clothes and liked to clown around. His family has a video of him making up a rap song in sign language. "Every time I'm sad, he tried to make me laugh," said his cousin Dion Jack, 13.

His mother relied on him. "Places where I'd want to go, he would tell me how to get there," she said.

Because Mr. Lazare's disability was invisible, people often missed it, his mother said. People trying to get by him on the street would say, "Excuse me,'' and when he did not respond, she said, they shoved him. "I'd say: 'Why are you pushing him? He can't hear you. He's deaf and dumb.' And they'd say, 'I'm sorry.' ''

Around 7 Thursday night, Ms. Lazare said, her son was headed out to play ball. He invited his 19-year-old brother, Kieron, to join him, but Kieron had to go to a G.E.D. class. Kevin hugged his mother goodbye and signed to his sister, Kenya Mano, 9, that he would be back later. The next time they saw him was yesterday morning, when they went to claim his bagged body at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, a few blocks from the shooting. It was the second time this month that the family had been shaken by violence - Kevin's father was killed two weeks ago in a robbery in Trinidad.

While some of Mr. Lazare's relatives set up a memorial on the sidewalk in front of the school yesterday, with candles shielded from the wind by a paper-towel box, others tried to clean up the frozen blood that had congealed there. Eventually a custodian came out of the school and offered them some cleaning fluid.

A little later the B15 wheezed by. "I want to take my kids and get out of here," Ms. Lazare said. "Every time I see this bus, I'm going to remember Kevin."

Ann Farmer contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company