Dorothy Scriber was 17 years old when she had her first child, a son, Louis. “You learn quickly when you are young,” she laughs. “I waited eight years until I had my next child.” Despite the challenges of being a young single mother, Dorothy does not look back on those days with regret or despair. Dorothy enrolled in Baltimore City Community College and received a nursing degree. Today she operates a private duty nursing company with eight nursing assistants who work under her guidance. “Louis watched me go get it and he followed in my tracks,” says Dorothy.
Louis, like his mother, was driven and determined to succeed. His work ethic was clear from an early age. When Louis was 11 years old, his mother sent him to pay the electric and gas bill downtown. On his way, he noticed a pair of flashy tennis shoes in a store window. He rushed home, “Ma, I saw some shoes that I need to have. I’m not going to tell you how much they are. I just want you to come see them.” Dorothy agreed to go with Louis downtown that weekend to look at the shoes. They were $100. Louis’ sister was three years old at the time and Dorothy remembers telling her son, “With one hundred dollars, I could buy you, me, and Takeya all new shoes.” Louis was insistent, so Dorothy devised a plan: she would give him fifty dollars if he could earn the remaining fifty. She gave him the names of three local shop owners and told him to ask them if they had any work for him.
Louis approached Mr. Lenny, proprietor of The House of Naturals, a barbershop on the corner of Fayette and Carlton: “Mr. Lenny I need a job because I have expensive tastes and my mother says I need to earn money.” Mr. Lenny not only became Louis’s first employer, but also a father figure. Louis worked at the barbershop running errands and cleaning from the age of 11 until he was 18.
Louis was surrounded by a community of protectors at the shop. Among them were his godfather, Rick, who set up a bank account for him, and his godmother, Cara, who took $25 out of his paycheck each week to put in the account. When he turned 18, Louis used some of the money to purchase his first car, a blue Ford Taurus Station Wagon. Together with Dorothy, the barbershop community taught Louis the importance of planning for his future and budgeting. In addition to his work at the barbershop, Louis also spent every summer from the ages of 14 to 18 working in the Youth Works Program of Baltimore. He was a driven and motivated young man.
Louis assumed a caretaker role for his younger siblings when Dorothy was working extra shifts on the weekends. He impressed upon his siblings the importance of an education and bought them clothes and toys to reward them for good grades. “He’d spend time with them and take them places to keep them out of the streets,” Dorothy remembers.
Louis had a trip planned to Las Vegas to celebrate his younger brother Terrance’s graduation. They never had a chance to go. Terrance was a senior in high school when Louis was shot and killed.Another son, trying to survive the streets, lost to gunfire. Go #BehindtheStatistics w/ DorothyClick To Tweet
Dorothy believes a past mistake had caught up with him. There was a shooting at The Upper Deck, a club in Baltimore, in May of 2006. Louis admitted that he got into a fight that night. He came home and told his mother all about it. “We had no secrets. Me and Louis were like this,” she says with two fingers wrapped around one another. In October of 2006, two police officers knocked on Dorothy’s door as Louis was getting ready for work. She knew when she saw the helicopters circling her home that the officers were bringing bad news. They brought a warrant for Louis’ arrest for two attempted murders.
The bail was set at $100,000, so Louis spent eleven months in jail awaiting his trail. The victim, who was shot in the back of his arm and his buttock, got on the stand, ostensibly to identify Louis as the individual who shot him. Instead the victim, much to the judge’s frustration, pled the Fifth. The judge questioned this, and the victim pointed at two police officers in the court and said, “I’m going to come clean. Those two detectives came and told me that Louis shot me.” Louis was found not guilty by a jury and subsequently released.
The family thought that chapter of their life was closed. Life continued and the family faced new challenges. Dorothy was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her children and husband rallied to her side. The diagnosis was grim, but she was determined to survive.
The night of Louis’ death, Dorothy was in bed. She was drained and worn. Chemotherapy and radiation had taken a toll on her body and spirit. Earlier in the evening, Louis told his mother he was going to the movies and would be home later in the evening. “Ok, be careful. I love you,” she responded. A few hours later, Terrance knocked on Dorothy’s door and called to his stepfather. Dorothy hadn’t heard a thing, but a few minutes later there was another knock at her door. The young woman who was with Louis that night said that Louis was shot and lying in the street just yards from the house.
She ran to her son’s body and tried to find a pulse, an easy task for a trained nurse. She couldn’t. She would have given her life, the life she was fighting so dearly to hold onto, in an instant if it would have brought her child back. Louis’ long thick hair covered the place where the bullet pierced his skull. The police have never solved the case, but, like so many of these cases, Dorothy knows who killed her son.
Dorothy recognizes that she will likely never get her day in court. There will be no justice for Louis. This is only a small part of her pain. There is the loss of a son, brother, and father. Louis’ astute financial planning means that his children Kamya and Keyon won’t have to worry about paying for college. Their mother, to whom Louis was engaged at the time of his death, doesn’t have the same financial concerns that many single mothers share. Yet she and Dorothy share larger concerns, “I worry about my babies growing up.”
Just last year, Terrance was held up at gun point and robbed of his boots and pants while commuting home from his second job. The experience rattled the family’s fragile sense of security in this volatile city. He decided to give up the nighttime job as a janitor; he didn’t think that his life was worth risking for a little extra money. Dorothy shakes her head in disbelief at all. Terrance is only 25 years old and simply trying to build a firm financial future, just as his older brother, Louis, taught him.
But, in Baltimore, there is no justice for Dorothy and no sense of security for her surviving children. A sad reality that affects so many families here.
Louis A Scott, November 5, 1980- August 30, 2010
Written by Liz Banach, Executive Director, Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence