Crime Scenes: Murder victim buried in Ravens jersey

Patrick Dolan's parents didn't need a suit to bury their son.

"Patrick was not a suit kind of a person," said his father, Bill.

"I think he would really like to be buried in his Lardarius Webb jersey," said his mother, Geraldine.

And so on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Patrick Dolan went to his final resting place wearing the No. 21 jersey of the Ravens cornerback — a shirt he had worn during only one game before he was stabbed to death on a Baltimore street in Belair-Edison.

Patrick Dolan was Baltimore's 200th homicide victim this year. The 19-year-old, riding on a city bus, missed his stop, got off and was walking back to a friend's house on Juneway. It was 10:45 on the morning of Nov. 23.

Relatives said a man asked Dolan for change for a $10 bill, then grabbed his wallet. He fought back and was stabbed in the chest and back. Police listed the motive as attempted robbery; no arrest has been made.

Dolan's sprawling Irish-Catholic family, built around a matriarchal grandmother who lives on 34th Street in Hampden, is one big Ravens cheering squad. An in-law is the co-founder of the West Wing, a booster club for fans who live on the West Coast, and numerous relatives hold season tickets.

A little more than a year ago, Dolan's immediate family moved from Hampden to Dover, Pa., a town of about 1,800 northwest of York. But he returned to Baltimore every weekend to hang with friends and family and to crowd into his 78-year-old grandmother's house — she dons a purple wig — to watch the Sunday Ravens game and eat homemade meatballs.

After his death, a friend of a friend of a relative got to a friend of Lardarius Webb, woke him up with an early-morning phone call and told him about Patrick Dolan, about the jersey, and about his being the 200th killing of 2010.

"It got to me," Webb said after practice Thursday at the Ravens' Owings Mills training center. "I didn't know whether to be scared, sad, happy, that he was being buried in my jersey. It was something new to me."

Webb, along with Ray Lewis, Ray Rice and others, signed a football for the family. "We are playing for you this weekend," they wrote, referring to the Nov. 28 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Said Webb, "For the family, I hope this can lift them up in any way possible, to help them move on."

The ball made it to Hampden in time for the viewing on Nov. 26, where mourners dressed in Ravens jerseys to honor Dolan and to keep the tradition of "Purple Fridays." It now sits in a glass case in his parents' house, next to Irish heirlooms.

Geraldine and William Dolan buried their son the next day, on Saturday, after a funeral Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas in Hampden, the church where their son had been baptized, by the priest who had officiated at his first Communion.

On Sunday, the parents watched the Ravens play the Buccaneers at M&T Bank Stadium. A relative had slipped four tickets into William Dolan's pocket the previous day.

Despite drops in violence in Baltimore this year, killings maintain a steady pace, sometimes to the point that the fatal stabbing of a young man on a city street on a weekday morning barely gets noticed by the public.

The sheer number of killings struck 25-year-old Webb when he first arrived to play for the Ravens two years ago. The cornerback grew up in Opelika, Ala., a town of 23,000 on Interstate 85 between the Georgia state line and Auburn.

All he knew of Baltimore was football and "The Wire."

"It was surprising when they said 200 murders," Webb told me. "That's a lot of murders in one year."

The number is still climbing.

The young player's main job is to disrupt passes and intercept opposing quarterbacks. But he's also been out in the community, signing autographs, handing out Thanksgiving meals and talking at schools in the city's roughest neighborhoods.

"I'm from the country, where we have a big backyard," he said. "Up here, it seems all they have is sidewalk. And they have junkies on the corner. It's like, how do the kids make it?"

And sometimes trouble finds people like Patrick Dolan, killed while doing nothing more than trying to get from his grandmother's house in Hampden — where she had made him a bacon-and-egg sandwich — to a friend's house in Belair-Edison.

Dolan attended a Catholic elementary school and went partway through Archbishop Curley High School — where he played football — before moving to Pennsylvania with his parents when he was 17.

An avid Ravens fan, Dolan quickly took to Webb because the player's small size and wiry build mimicked his own. Living north of York, out of Ravens territory, he stuck his head out the car window whenever he saw someone dressed in Ravens purple.

"Now that's the heart of Baltimore," he would yell.

He surprised his mother when he declined to go to a mall in York where linebacker Ray Lewis was signing autographs. Geraldine Dolan recalled the story this way: "He said, 'Mom, I would just walk in there, and I would say, "Mr. Lewis, it would be an honor if you would tackle me right here, right now."'"

Patrick Dolan worked as a dishwasher for Outback Steakhouse in York and had recently purchased Webb's jersey over the Internet for $25. It took weeks for it to be delivered, and almost every day he called his mother to have her check the delivery date on her computer.

One day, he bolted from the bathroom and chased a UPS truck up the street, thinking it had bypassed his house with his jersey still inside. The jersey arrived in time for him to wear it at his grandmother's house for the Nov. 21 game against the Carolina Panthers.

It would be his first game — and last — in the jersey.

He was killed two days later.

Then the football from Lardarius Webb arrived in Hampden.

"I can honestly tell you," Geraldine Dolan told me, "that football coming to the funeral home made everybody so happy. It changed a somber day into something that made us feel so much better about things."

The ball almost was buried with Dolan and the uniform.

"If it had been up to my husband and I, it would be in the casket," the mother said.

But Dolan's youngest brother, 12-year-old Joseph, asked to keep the ball. And knowing Patrick would have readily given it to him had he been alive, the parents put it aside, and on display.

The Ravens tickets that the relative had slipped into William Dolan's pocket came with a sideline pass for pre-game festivities. Joseph got to stand on the field before the game dedicated to his brother.

"Patrick would've been so happy," his mother said.

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

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