Kelly shot two days before departure for college

Updated: August 13, 2004, 11:39 PM ET
Associated Press

RICHMOND, Calif. -- One of the nation's best high school linebackers was shot to death two days before he was to leave his crime-ridden city for the University of Oregon on an athletic scholarship.

Terrance Kelly, 18, was a star linebacker and tight end for De La Salle High School. He was shot in the driver's seat of his car outside a home around 10:30 p.m. Thursday as he waited to pick up a family member, Richmond Police Sgt. Enos Johnson said Friday.

Police found Kelly lying in the street next to his car, shot in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police have yet to identify a motive or any suspects, Johnson said.

Blood stains could still be seen Friday on the spot where Kelly was gunned down. A makeshift wooden cross with the words "God Bless You, Terrance Kelly" was taped onto a nearby lampost.

"It brought tears to my eyes. That was a positive young man with a bright future," said longtime Richmond resident Dennis Samuels, 41, who knew Kelly when the football star was a child.

"It's just history repeating itself. This isn't the first time something like this has happened. Richmond needs to wake up."

Kelly was a standout at De La Salle, a Catholic school in a middle-class suburb about 20 miles east of Kelly's east San Francisco Bay neighborhood. The team boasts a 151-game winning streak, and Kelly never played in a losing game in his high school career.

He was one of four De la Salle players recruited by the University of Oregon this year, and was considered one of the best defensive players in the nation.

Kelly's friends and relatives gathered Friday in his neighborhood, remembering him as a role model for younger children, with his desire to excel and his plans for college.

"It hurts me to see it come down to this," said Johnny Dempsey, Kelly's cousin. "My son used to get up and see Terrance on the TV and go 'Daddy! There goes T.K.!'"

Flowers and balloons were placed outside the school's red brick chapel, where Friday afternoon, instead of practice, the football team's players and coaches held a private memorial service. A public service will be held after school is in session.

"It's a shock," said Justin Alumbaugh, De La Salle's linebacker and tight end coach. "He was a young man who was doing everything right. He was an inspiration, he was admired by everybody."

Bruce Shoup, De La Salle's president and chief executive, said Kelley was a leader who "exhibited talent, intelligence and care for others besides himself."

"He will be remembered as an excellent student, good friend and inspiration for all the boys destined to follow him through school," Shoup said.

Teammates said they looked up to Kelly and saw him as a leader both on and off the field.

"When you watched him on the field, he was like a train. No one could knock him down," said senior Chris Bolognesi, 17, of Danville. "He was a great player and a great person."

Kelly was going to leave on Saturday morning for Eugene, Ore., where news of his slaying hit hard.

"It's so senseless and tragic. It's hard to explain," said Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti. "Certainly it's very difficult to begin the season with this type of thing. But the most important people are Terrance's family and friends ... our prayers go to them."

Oregon recruited Kelly along with Jackie Bates, Cameron Colvin and Willie Glasper from the high school. Bellotti said they "were virtually inseparable and their friendship was very, very strong."

"What he accomplished in high school was tremendous but what he and his teammates wanted to accomplish at the next level, they were excited about the opportunities," Belotti said.

Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti called Kelly "just a sweetheart of a kid."

"He was a great young man who had some special goals and aspirations to come up here and be a fantastic linebacker and student here at the University of Oregon. He and his family were very proud of the opportunity. Terrance was looking for great things to happen."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press