Two teenagers who were shot to death execution-style in Hartford Thursday morning were participating in a botched robbery, Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts said Friday.
Before their deaths, Kent McLaurin, 19, of Hartford, and Xion Davidson, 17, of West Hartford, were friends whose lives seemed to have taken very different paths, according to interviews with their families, friends and school officials.
But those paths converged in the early hours Thursday morning, when they were killed less than two blocks from each other by shotgun blasts to the head.
Both their faces were partially covered with masks, one of the factors that led police to conclude they had tried to rob someone.
McLaurin, who was raised in West Hartford and Manchester, had chosen a thug lifestyle while he was attending Sedgwick Middle School in West Hartford, his father said Friday.
While living in Manchester, the boy's decision ``to terrorize other kids'' and steal their Halloween candy put him on a criminal path that led to his incarceration in juvenile detention centers at least three times since 2004, John McLaurin III said.
Police said Kent McLaurin was a member of the Bloods gang.
Davidson, on the other hand, was a stand-out football player at Conard High School in West Hartford. He was described by friends, his principal and family as a likable youth who had only minor scrapes with the law and was a decent student.
The investigation into their deaths is continuing, Roberts said. But as of late Friday, Roberts said, no suspects had been identified, although a possible motive had been established.
``We believe right now they were trying to rob somebody,'' he said. ``We are investigating this as a robbery gone bad.''
Roberts said detectives are no longer investigating the incident as a gang-related incident. ``Just because one of them was a Blood doesn't mean it was gang-related. He was a Blood who was killed committing a robbery. We don't want to alarm the public,'' he said.
Meanwhile, news of their deaths on Friday upset a lot of people in West Hartford and Hartford.
Davidson's mother was overcome with grief during an interview. ``He was a loving son,'' she said through a stream of tears. ``He liked to play football.''
Both youths had lived in West Hartford as young boys and met at Sedgwick Middle School, friends say. They remained friends after John McLaurin III -- then a single father and an engineer for the information-technology company Unisys -- moved his family to Manchester three years ago.
The elder McLaurin is deeply religious. And Kent McLaurin went to church and was taught the difference between right and wrong, according to his brother, John McLaurin IV.
But Kent ``got into hip-hop music and started to change,'' his brother said. ``He didn't want to listen to authority. He had a dual nature. He was loving around the family, and around his friends he took on a dark nature.''
Kent McLaurin was arrested in Manchester with three other youths for ``terrorizing other children'' while they were trick-or-treating, his father said. ``He said it himself. He had a clique, `one of many.'''
He could have gotten away with probation if he had cooperated with police, the elder McLaurin said. But he displayed a ``sense of blind, displaced loyalty for his friends,'' and he was sent to a state juvenile detention center for 18 months.
When he returned home, Kent McLaurin became more rebellious. He rejected appeals by his older brother to stop ``acting like a thug.'' It wasn't long before he had violated his probation. He was arrested again for stealing a bicycle, his father said, and was sent back to detention for another 18 months. His family watched as he turned into ``a tough guy.''
He started wearing baggy clothing and hip-hop attire, listening to rap artists who promoted violence, John McLaurin IV said. He stayed out late, if he came home at all, despite threats from his father that he would ``kick his butt.''
``I told him he had to leave,'' his brother said. ``He couldn't keep disrespecting my father.''
Kent McLaurin was arrested twice in the past 15 months, West Hartford police said Friday.
The latest arrest was Monday night about 8 p.m. at Kennedy Park off Oakwood Avenue. Police charged him with breach of peace after he threatened to fight a park employee who tried to stop him from talking to a 12-year-old girl, said West Hartford police Lt. Don Melanson.
In May 2006, McLaurin was arrested on Oakwood Avenue after threatening someone with a knife, according to West Hartford police. Then 18, McLaurin was charged with second-degree threatening, risk of injury to a child and second-degree breach of peace. At that time, police said McLaurin was a member of the Bloods gang, and the arrest stemmed from a report that gang members were making threats.
Before he was sent back to prison for that offense, McLaurin was expelled from Manchester High School for fighting. His father let his son return to their new home on Beacon Street in Hartford because he appeared to be remorseful during one conversation about the trouble he had caused.
``Life isn't worth it,'' John McLaurin III recalled his son saying tearfully. ``I need people to love me.''
His father told him that ``the best thing you can do is say enough. Because of our faith, things are not hopeless.''
His son went back to prison in July 2006, where he learned that he had thyroid cancer and remained in a coma at the prison ward at UConn Health Center for more than a month.
Once he recovered, he took his medication every day. When his body was discovered early Thursday, his pill bottles were in a bag nearby.
McLaurin's father said he did not know that his son was a gang member, but he had suspicions because of Kent's behavior and because he frequently wore red -- the color of the Bloods.
He wanted to wear red shirts and jerseys when he asked to borrow clothes, he said. He didn't wear the color red inside the house, but he always left wearing a red shirt or jacket, McLaurin IV said. It was so noticeable that he asked his younger brother if he was a member of a gang.
``I was, not anymore,'' Kent McLaurin told his brother.
``He had a double life,'' his brother said. He was all right here, but when he left home he was out robbing people.''
Meanwhile in West Hartford Friday, the Conard High School community mourned Xion Davidson, who would have been a senior in the fall.
A talented running back on the varsity football team, he was remembered Friday as a charismatic, charming boy who connected with all kinds of students and touched classmates and faculty with his endearing style.
``If you met him, you liked him,'' said Conard Principal Tom Moore.
Garie Salmon, 19, was Davidson's friend.
``We would hang out every day,'' Salmon said of Davidson. ``He'd come over to play video games, and we'd go to the park together.''
``When you grow up with some kid, you never expect him to die early,'' Salmon said. ``I'm never going to chill with him again.''
Other students who had befriended Davidson and the school's staff were stunned that he had been killed.
``This shouldn't happen to any of our kids,'' Moore said. ``It's got to stop.''
The Conard community has been ``devastated'' by Davidson's killing, Moore said.
During the summer school session on Friday, school officials offered students a place to grieve and provided counselors and representatives from the Bridge Family Center. Davidson had attended the West Hartford school system during middle school, at Sedgwick.
Davidson, who was described as a student full of potential with no major blemishes on his academic record at Conard, had recently been working with the Bridge Family Center at his family's behest to address some of his behavior and decisions, Moore said.
``We worry about all of our kids and what happens when they are not in schools and the choices that all of our students make,'' Moore said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun