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Local Baltimore business owner and community activist Sean "LayedBack Jack" Davis poses on a motorcycle. Davis was shot and killed in front of his Opus Auto shop business on Dec. 17, 2019.
Local Baltimore business owner and community activist Sean "LayedBack Jack" Davis poses on a motorcycle. Davis was shot and killed in front of his Opus Auto shop business on Dec. 17, 2019.

A small red sign attached to a black gate outside Opus Auto said simply, “RIP LBJ,” a nod of appreciation to LayedBack Jack, a friend, mentor and powerful influence to the many residents and business owners he met over the years.

Candles, potted flowers, the RIP sign and other leftovers from a vigil for Sean Davis, 33, only hinted at the impact his life and violent death had on the community. During the three years he owned Opus Auto at 1124 E. 25th St. in Northeast Baltimore, it became his vehicle to bond with neighbors and soothe those hurt by the violence engulfing the city, those who knew him said.

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Just days before someone gunned him down outside his shop Dec. 17, Davis started a toy drive for children who had lost parents to gun violence, advertising it to his 70,000 Instagram followers. He never finished, but after his killing, boxes of toys began piling up under a mailbox in the auto shop’s entrance.

The toy drive carried on even as Davis’ family — some traveling from Maryland’s Eastern Shore — braced for his viewing and funeral.

Brothers Melvin Brown and Roland Brown, sat inside the Vaughn Greene Funeral home last Friday afternoon, reminiscing about their nephew. Melvin said Davis’ work through his auto business helped him develop a “greater social awareness” with his community, which helped him garner such large community support.

Sixteen candles, two small sized flower pots and a red sign that reads "RIP LBJ" were all placed in front of the gate entrance to his Opus Auto shop business a day after his candle light vigil. Davis was shot and killed in front of the business on Dec. 17, 2019.
Sixteen candles, two small sized flower pots and a red sign that reads "RIP LBJ" were all placed in front of the gate entrance to his Opus Auto shop business a day after his candle light vigil. Davis was shot and killed in front of the business on Dec. 17, 2019. (Phillip Jackson)

“Sean, he knew the streets, but whenever he had an opportunity to talk about transforming negative energy into something positive, he always encouraged that,” Melvin said.

Roland said Davis’ community work was “instrumental” to how he operated every day in his auto shop, which offered both repair services and used cars. With his nephew’s commitment to the area, Roland said it is not “surprising” that many of the business owners had such a fond memory of him.

Davis used his business to give single mothers cars to get their children to school and have transportation for work, said Mia Scott, his sister. He also used Instagram for innovative promotions, such as when a single mother won a car he was raffling off for $1 a ticket.

Scott said she was 7 years old when he was born and early on she saw signs that her younger brother would be special. He was always the “life of the party” and he knew ways to make people smile.

As Scott got older, she began to see the Davis’ youthful traits manifest in his work as a community activist and business owner.

“He was such a smart guy. He had these dreams and these plans and things that he wrote down that have come to fruition in his short 33 years,” Scott said.

“He lived out many of his dreams and I think that is so important," she said. “On a daily basis through his Instagram posts he just tried to show people you can do what you want to do. He worked hard every day.”

Business owners in the area of the Opus Auto shop are still struggling with Davis’ death and, even two weeks later, most don’t want to comment.

Arsenio Gomez, whose auto shop is located directly across the street from Opus Auto, said Davis had a great personality, describing him as a “quiet, nice guy."

Davis attended several youth programs growing up in the Northwood area of the city and also spent time in East Baltimore, his family said.

L-R Melvin E. Brown and Roland C. Brown are brothers and also uncles of Sean Davis who was a well-known local business owner of an Opus Auto was shot and killed while hosting a toy drive at the time of his death.
L-R Melvin E. Brown and Roland C. Brown are brothers and also uncles of Sean Davis who was a well-known local business owner of an Opus Auto was shot and killed while hosting a toy drive at the time of his death. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

Davis’ murder and the killing of another young, popular business owner, 21-year-old Destiny Harrison make it hard for Roland Brown to fathom the reasons for each of their deaths as violence in the city continues to soar. They were laid to rest in separate funeral services on the same day this past weekend.

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“The tragedy of 300-plus murders in Baltimore is sad because all of those lives are valuable, all of those lives have meaning and all of those lives affect other people,” Roland Brown said. “But this tendency now to just go after people that are doing good in the community is something that is hard to figure out.”

Melvin E. Brown an uncle of Sean Davis talks about the death of his nephew, who was a well-known local business owner of an Opus Auto and was hosting a toy drive at the time he was shot and killed. Sean Davis' family will be speaking with the Baltimore Sun at Vaughn Green funeral home.
Melvin E. Brown an uncle of Sean Davis talks about the death of his nephew, who was a well-known local business owner of an Opus Auto and was hosting a toy drive at the time he was shot and killed. Sean Davis' family will be speaking with the Baltimore Sun at Vaughn Green funeral home. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

City Council President Brandon Scott acknowledged Davis as a community leader, saying in a statement that the shooting was a reminder that “the horrific violence devastating our communities can affect us all.”

Baltimore Police have no updates on their investigation into Davis’ killing.

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