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Mentor Made a Difference but Couldn't Prevent a Violent End

Bullets claim a man aided by Big Brothers for 12 years. A $27,000 reward is offered for information leading to a conviction.

August 02, 2003|Hilda Munoz | Times Staff Writer

When Tom Riley, a volunteer Big Brother, was running for Los Angeles City Council, he asked a group of kids visiting his campaign office in Silver Lake to draw a picture of their neighborhoods.

While most drew houses, Dexter Rideout, a 10-year-old boy who had become Riley's Little Brother, depicted bullets whizzing through the air and a bloody body, the victim of a drive-by shooting, splayed on the floor.

"That was the reality of his neighborhood," said Riley.

Ten years later, on July 20, Rideout was shot and killed as he walked two blocks from the house he shared with his mother near Vermont Avenue and 50th Street.

"It was almost like a prophecy: His future came true," said Riley, standing on the street where his Little Brother of 12 years was gunned down.

Holding a copy of the picture, Riley, family, friends and city officials offered a combined $27,000 reward Friday for anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the gunman.

Rideout's distraught mother, Lovel Abram, asked the killer to confess to the murder of her only child.

"Come forward.... If you were man enough to kill him," said Abram through her tears. "That was my baby, my one and only."

Although the slaying occurred in morning daylight on Hoover Street, a busy Los Angeles thoroughfare, police have few clues. Some witnesses told police a black male with a shaved head stepped out of a 1997 to 2000 Ford Expedition, Eddie Bauer edition, said Police Chief William J. Bratton.

The pair talked before the man shot Rideout several times, Bratton added.

"Like so many others, he was trying to go about his business; he was in the wrong place at the wrong time," the chief added. "And that's been the story for too many young lives snuffed out in this city."

Bratton asked that anyone who saw or heard anything related to the killing talk to the police.

"These individuals who commit these crimes, they don't stay quiet about it, they brag about it, they celebrate it, they think it's something courageous on their part," he said. "We need people who have talked to these individuals, who have overheard something, to give us information."

Witnesses can leave tips at (213) 485-1385 or (877) LAWFUL. All informants will remain anonymous.

Riley, a software entrepreneur, was paired with Rideout through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program 12 years ago. In that time, South Los Angeles has accumulated more than 2,000 unsolved homicides.

Riley was 25 when he met 8-year-old, bright-eyed Rideout, who had never stepped outside the boundaries of his South Los Angeles neighborhood. They quickly bonded. His new Little Brother attended all Riley family functions and was a groomsman for his wedding in 1995, said Riley, a new father of twins.

Rideout earned his GED certificate and starting taking auto mechanics courses at a Los Angeles trade school.

Riley said the neighborhood started wearing on Rideout during his teen years, when all his friends joined gangs. But his mother and the mentoring program kept him away from gangs, he said.

Rideout was proof of the value of mentors, Riley said, adding that about 250 boys and girls in South Los Angeles are waiting to be paired with a Big Brother or Sister.

"In the 12 years that I was Dexter's Big Brother, I worked with his mother, with Big Brothers' mentoring program to help keep him out of trouble, and we did a good job," Riley said.

But a program can only do so much.

"He wasn't a gangbanger, he wasn't a drug dealer," Riley said. "And it still wasn't enough to keep him alive."

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