News: He Wasn't Just No. 81

Death takes a peaceable young man

Ben L. Kaufman

Marilyn Logan, grandmother of a homicide victim, meets D'Angelo Harkness, killed five days later.

Sixteen-year-old boys aren't supposed to live in fear. But D'Angelo Ja' Ron Harkness was afraid of being killed, and he had good reason to be. He's dead now.

The Walnut Hills teen was shot near his home on Dec. 18 and died the next morning.

D'Angelo was shot and killed just days after he'd pondered a sermon on death at the church he attended, a week after he'd participated in a forum on gun violence in Cincinnati and 16 months after he'd survived his first gunshot wound.

Candace Tubbs, active in community-based efforts to end street violence in Cincinnati, knew D'Angelo well. He'd been wounded earlier, in a shooting on Aug. 1, 2005. This came not long after another man had been shot to death outside his home. Hearing that gunshot, D'Angelo went outside with his friends and encountered a group of men.

"When they heard shots, they came out, and some men were standing around," Tubbs says.

"They thought nothing else of it. All the boys were convinced: 'We didn't see nothing.' They just assumed these were drug dealers that they see out there all the time."

But if Tubbs' suspicions are correct, someone believed D'Angelo was a witness. She thinks that suspicion explains the shooting he survived last year — and maybe the shooting that killed him this time.

"From there D'Angelo was afraid to be alone," Tubbs says. "We worked it out, his mom and me, where D'Angelo lived with me as a safe haven. He lived with me for about seven months. He was scared. If we went somewhere after dark, like a movie, he didn't want to go. He sat down and had a conversation with David Pepper and said, 'I'm scared. I don't want to get shot.' "

D'Angelo met Pepper while volunteering for his campaign for the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. It wasn't D'Angelo's only civic involvement. Five days before his death, he participated in a Community Conversation on youth violence sponsored by the Woman's City Club. He met Marilyn Logan, whose grandson was shot dead in Madisonville in an unsolved killing.

D'Angelo was an incipient entrepreneur. Working with the group Tubbs founded, Society for the Advancement and Reform of Felons, he worked in its Ministry of Business on a start-up apparel company, We Fam Unity Wear. He took a class on public access TV at Media Bridges and was a frequent guest on One Cincinnati, a show Tubbs co-hosted with city council candidate Brian Garry.

D'Angelo went to church with Tubbs.

"He had been going to church with me for the past six months," she says. "The last sermon he listened to was about death. He asked all these questions. It was three days before he got killed."

Both daily newspapers gave brief reports on his death. The headline in The Cincinnati Post said, "City hits 81 homicides mark." The headline in The Cincinnati Enquirer said, "16-year-old is 81st city homicide victim."

D'Angelo was one of three youths shot that night in the 2800 block of Park Avenue, where he lived. ©