‘This has to stop,’ says mom
Offers message to gangsters, other parents after son killed
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/11/2011 (3933 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Her son was gunned down, becoming yet another grim statistic in a record-setting year for homicides in Winnipeg.
And while she continues to deal with sorrow and anger, Linda Kozlowski has a series of messages for all who play a role in the criminal justice system.
To gangsters and street thugs: Put down your weapons. To parents and guardians: Quit shirking your responsibilities. To judges and politicians: It’s time for some changes.
Kozlowski says she’s no visionary. She’s just a grieving mother who has been touched by tragedy and fears where the city is headed.
“This has to stop. But it feels like we’re fighting a losing battle. It’s not going to get any better. I’m sorry to say, but those two killed over the weekend won’t be the end of it. There will be more,” Kozlowski said in a wide-ranging interview with the Free Press on Tuesday.
Her son, David Vincett, 20, was killed Sept. 25 while walking down Boyd Street just after 3 a.m. He was returning from a friend’s home and only a few blocks from his own residence. A 14-year-old boy has been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly walking up to Vincett and shooting him in the head from point-blank range.
“He was shot and left to die, like a dog,” said Kozlowski, who runs her own tax business and has raised five children as a single parent. “In my last conversation with him a day earlier, he asked me if I’d pick him up some pop at the store and told me he loved me. I never saw him again.”
Police believe Vincett’s slaying may be tied to the Sept. 10 stabbing death of Clark Stevenson, 15, as he rode his bike near the corner of College Avenue and Aikins Street.
Days later, an 18-year-old man and 14-year-old boy were arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Before his death, Stevenson had boasted online about being a member of a local street gang.
The boy accused of shooting Vincett was affiliated with gangs and may have had “similar associations” as Stevenson, police said. Vincett did not belong to a gang but certainly knew members of some, his mother said. He had lived in the West End until early September, then moved with his family to the North End. Vincett often wore a black and white bandana, likely to give the impression he was gang-affiliated. It may have got him killed.
“It was just wrong place, wrong clothing, wrong time of night,” said Kozlowski. “(The bandana) was a protective thing to him.”
Kozlowski will be the first to admit her son was no angel.
He could be a handful, due largely to being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when he was eight. He stopped taking his medication in his mid-teens and began hanging out with a shady group of friends. He dropped out of school in Grade 9 and had various run-ins with the law, mostly for minor property offences.
If someone thinks people like Vincett are looking for trouble, they’ve got the wrong idea, said Holly Kolevris, a court support worker for the Manitoba Organization of Victims Advocates.
“No one deserves to die, even if they’re out at four in the morning,” Kolevris said.
Kozlowski wishes the Youth Criminal Justice Act would have allowed for stronger punishment for her son and other teens like him who run afoul of the law.
“I’ve been screaming for 13 years to change the YCJA. All these kids get are slaps on the wrist,” said Kozlowski.
She was particularly upset to learn the teen charged in her son’s slaying had only recently got out of jail for shooting at a postal carrier last year.
The teen was just 13 when he confronted a 51-year-old victim who was delivering mail one afternoon last November on Aberdeen Avenue. The boy initially demanded money and pepper spray from the victim, then pulled out a sawed-off shotgun, loaded it and fired.
The letter carrier narrowly avoided being hit and fled without injury. The youth spent more than three months in custody before pleading guilty last March to several offences. He was given just three more months in custody, followed by three months of community supervision and two years of supervised probation.
“These kids all scream they want respect, they want respect, yet they don’t respect each other. And where are they getting all these guns from? It’s obviously not hard to get a gun these days. It’s ridiculous,” said Kozlowski. “It used to be if you had a beef you’d maybe pop somebody (with a punch). Nowadays, you grab a gun and you go shoot them.”
Weapons are just too easy for teens to get their hands on, Kolevris said.
“The weapons are out there,” she said. “If they don’t have a gun, they have a knife.”
Kozlowski is also upset so many parents and guardians seem to take little or no role in their children’s lives, noting so many of these attacks involving young criminals happen in the middle of the night. And while she admits a city-wide curfew would be “unenforceable,” she wishes police had more power and resources to monitor and control the streets. And that child-welfare officials could intervene more often.
“A lot of parents just don’t seem to care anymore. When it comes to being a voice of reason or conscience, you can’t be your child’s friend. You need to be a parent,” she said. “If you’re not watching what your kid’s doing and giving them a kick in the ass when needed, you’re fighting a losing battle.”
Kozlowski plans to follow the legal process through to conclusion and would love to one day sit down with the person who killed her son.
“My son had a lot of plans, a lot of things he wanted to do with his life. He was looking at a job-training program and talking about starting a landscaping company,” she said. “I’d really like to ask the person who did this ‘Why?’ “
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.