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At vigil for Baltimore 17-year-old, tributes to a dirt bike rider who inspired a neighborhood

A candlelight vigil is held for Antwane Knight, 17, who died on June 2 of multiple gunshot wounds. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun video)

Antwane Knight loved all things bikes.

The 17-year-old loved riding them, fixing them and teaching others how to ride.

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According to his grandmother, Beverly Purdie, who helped organize a vigil Wednesday night in West Baltimore following his death early Sunday morning, Knight’s passion for bikes stemmed from his father. Knight learned to ride when he was three-years-old and Purdie described her grandson as naturally gifted at the sport.

Even in middle school, his love for bikes was obvious. Jasmine Curry, Knight’s 6th and 7th grade language arts teacher at Knowledge and Success Academy, remembers Knight talking endlessly about the topic. And if he wasn’t speaking about it, Curry said, Knight was pretending to ride a bike while sitting at his desk.

That love eventually grew to include dirt bikes, which he learned to ride in middle school. Not long after, Knight became a popular and prominent rider on Baltimore’s dirt bike scene.

Beverly Purdie, Antwane Knight's grandmother, wipes her eyes after praying with family and friends before a candle light vigil.
Beverly Purdie, Antwane Knight's grandmother, wipes her eyes after praying with family and friends before a candle light vigil. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

But Knight’s career in the sport was cut short early Sunday morning when he was shot and killed in West Baltimore’s Penrose neighborhood.

Purdie said Knight left home to buy a few things at the gas station with his girlfriend, who also was shot and wounded in the same incident. Around ten minutes later, his girlfriend came running back to the house to tell the family that Knight had been shot.

He was rushed to University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center but died not long after. Baltimore Police said Thursday they were investigating Knight’s death as a homicide.

His killing is Baltimore’s 128th homicide so far this year, according to the police department, and the 26th in West Baltimore.

The teenager was fatally shot just four days after Baltimore City Public Schools held its annual Peace and Remembrance Day, a memorial event to honor the 12 city school students who died this past school year as a result of gun violence.

“Our young men and young women are being forgotten about and no one seems to care about it,” Curry said.

Dirt bike and bicycle riders show off their skills on Pulaski Street near Penrose Avenue before a candle vigil for Antwane Knight.
Dirt bike and bicycle riders show off their skills on Pulaski Street near Penrose Avenue before a candle vigil for Antwane Knight. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

To many, Knight was known for being a gifted dirt bike rider. But his friends and family remembered Knight for his big heart and eagerness to help.

Jermaine Purdie, Knight’s 12-year-old brother, recalled all the times he would ask his big brother for a dollar and Knight would hand him more than he asked for.

“If you were his friend, you were his family,” said Takiyah Knight, his 13-year-old sister.

Rakiya Baylor, Knight’s 14-year-old cousin, described him as a “dream chaser.” She said Knight’s dream was to work hard to get him and his family “out of the ’hood.”

Curry described Knight as special because from a young age he had a passion for those who were wrongly accused. According to Curry, in middle school, Knight said he wanted to become a lawyer to seek justice for those who were wrongfully convicted.

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On Wednesday evening, Knight’s family organized the vigil on the corner of Pulaski Avenue and Penrose Street. Within an hour of the vigil, the crowd grew to over 80 people, spilling into the streets and adjacent blocks.

“We didn’t realize so many people were going to come,” Knight’s grandmother said.

The area was filled with friends and family, blue and white balloons and the sounds of dirt bike engines roaring up and down the street — all of Knight’s favorite things.

“I’m glad that Baltimore came out to see him,” Purdie said.

Many at the vigil were still shocked by Knight’s death. His mother, who did not want to be identified, declined to comment.

“I did not expect this,” said Nika Thompson, the mother of Knight’s best friend. “Anybody else, but not ’Twan ’Twan.”

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