The world almost never met Lamar Anthony Graham on Jan. 9, some 21 years ago. Arline Graham experienced discomfort and was rushed to the hospital. Emergency surgery was necessary. Lamar’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, his life endanger.
“You’re my miracle baby,” his mother said.
Doctors performed emergency cesarean section surgery and Lamar survived.
Lamar’s family said he was strong-willed. Ishmael Graham, his uncle, said Lamar nearly drowned at the age of 10. A few years later, while trying out for youth football, he injured his hip.
“He was a champion at that time. I was amazed that his tolerance for pain was that high,” said Reese Graham of his son’s positive attitude throughout his recovery.
Lamar didn’t cause his parents grief, aside from sometimes acting “silly” in school, his father said. His parents instilled respect in their son but, at times, Lamar “had his little smart talk.”
People were drawn to Lamar’s “lovable” personality. While a student at Hampton Middle and Murray-Wright High School, he met dozens of new people. After the initial contact, he rarely made distinctions between friends and family.
“I don’t have to worry about anybody,” Lamar said.
Arline Graham said she didn’t trust people as easily as her son.
His Uncle Ishmael said Lamar rarely had disagreements and wanted people to be at peace with each other. Lamar may not have felt the need to be cautious because enemies appeared to be nonexistent.
Lamar was not content with new clothing or job opportunities, unless he could share them with his friends. His generosity extended to his closet and vehicle. He gave clothes away and provided transportation for his friends.
While a junior at Murray-Wright, he took a swim class, where he met Sa’Needra Smith. Initially, she thought Lamar was funny and pleasant, but also “skinny” and “young.” Smith was one year older than Lamar. Lamar eventually carried 210 pounds on his 6-foot-plus frame.
When Smith left for college, she and Graham stayed in contact. After one year, Smith withdrew from school and returned home. Their relationship continued to develop and friends described them as inseparable. The couple enjoyed walking around downtown or sitting on the rocks at Chene Park.
In July 2004, Smith gave birth to La’Mia Graham. Lamar was determined to provide for his daughter. His family said he was always willing to work and this included odd jobs around the neighborhood. Finding steady work proved difficult, however.
Lamar was frustrated but never lost his cheerful demeanor. His mother urged him to return to Davenport University, where he primarily studied business and computers. She said her son worried about finding work and felt strongly about his responsibility to take care of his child and girlfriend.
From the time Lamar was 7, his mother admonished him to be careful. His said his nephew was unaware of street dangers.
On June 25, Lamar returned to Detroit from a family gathering in Holley. He planned to pick up La’Mia and Sa’Needra that evening. First, he went down the street to visit his cousin, Dawuna Owens. At close to 11 p.m., Arline Graham ran out the house looking for her son’s black Ford Ranger. Shots had been fired.
Childhood friend Darryl Bruce and Reese Graham helped Lamar and 18-year-old Gary Graham into the back of the truck. They rushed to the hospital after four fruitless 911 calls. Lamar was hit in the legs, back and chest. After reaching Sinai Grace Hospital, he was pronounced dead on arrival. Gary survived.
Lamar’s family said he may have been the victim of mistaken identity, that his associations may have contributed to his death. Police said the Puritan/West McNichols area is engulfed in a “territorial war.” City Councilman Kwame Kenyatta helped organize a “Midnight March.”
“It’s just like killing your own brother. You could be related to the guy that’s supposed to be your enemy,” Ishmael Graham said.
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