It’s been almost a year since Rickey Evans received a call that changed not only the way he looks at life, but the way he looks at what he terms “senseless violence” in the metroplex.
Last May, Evans’ lifelong friend, Leatrick “Kool Breeze” Benjamin, became one of the 46 homicide victims in Shreveport during the year, a jump of 64 percent over the 28 killings in 2015. And Evans, a Caddo Parish deputy and North Caddo girls’ basketball coach, is among an ever-growing group fed up with the trend.
“When a killing happens, so many people end up hurting for a long, long time,” Evans said. “Kool Breeze and I grew up together in Queensboro and went to Fair Park together. He just made a wrong decision that night.”
To bring attention to violent death, as well as to assist Benjamin’s family financially, Evans has joined forces with supporters to host the inaugural “Stop the Violence” Basketball Tournament this weekend in the Lion’s Den at Booker T. Washington High School.
“The proceeds will go to help the family of Kool Breeze, who left behind five children ranging in age from 2 to 19,” said Evans, who played collegiately at Southern and Centenary College. “His 38th birthday would have been Friday, so me and several friends decided to hold this tournament in honor of him. We want to show people how it’s not only affecting the person they killed, but friends and family also.”
Kool Breeze wasn’t the only Benjamin to die in a violent fashion. His younger brother Cordovious “Packy” Benjamin was gunned down on Sept. 19, 2008, while sleeping at a friends’ house, according to Evans.
“Kool was supposed to go pick up Packy that night, but he didn’t, and that’s what happened,” Evans said. “Even though someone was put in jail for shooting him, the family still doesn’t know why. But that shows how we all make certain decisions that looking back, we would’ve made a different one. Kool always wished he had gone and picked up his brother.”
In the case of Kool Breeze, he was playing cards in the back of a tire store in north Shreveport near Cherokee Park with nine other men, when several masked gunman burst in and began shooting. Only Benjamin and Elton Wayne Madison were killed, although the other eight were injured.
Saturday’s double elimination tournament ($3 adult admission) will tip at 9 a.m. with the last game Sunday beginning at 2 p.m. The teams could adopt whatever name they wanted to play under, but Evans said some are playing under the name of a family member or friend who died as a result of violence. Evans will play with Team Kool Breeze, while there are teams named “Who Next,” Team “Weezy” and “Ten Toes Down.”
Evans said he is appreciative of those who have helped with the event, including BTW principal Christi Young and J.S. Clark principal Ruby Scroggins. Among the individuals conducting the tournament are BTW boys’ coach LeAndre Gipson, Damion Coleman and Quasean Nicholson.
The weekend competition isn’t just about basketball. There’s also an inflatable bounce house for children.
“We will also have life insurance agents and mental health counselors there to encourage people get life insurance and learn how to better take care of themselves,” Evans said. “We’re hoping some of the people attending will share the story about the loved one they lost during the halftime of games.”
Stop the Violence Basketball Tournament
More info: Damion Coleman at (318) 469-5014 or Quasean Nicholson at (318) 573-0737