Mom speaks in hope of preventing another tragedy

Published 5:57 pm Monday, June 23, 2008

Larry Elizalde, 18, had a bright future before him. College freshman, a desried to be a physician, football star, track star, and possible future Olympian.

Tragically, his life was cut short on Dec. 16, 1991 when he was shot and killed in a case of mistaken identity.

Since then, his mother, Lynette Elizalde-Robinson, 54, speaks to youth groups across the country in hope of preventing what happened to her son to one of the youth. Robinson was the keynote speaker Monday afternoon at the Port Arthur City Council Chamber for the Project Safe Neighborhood sponsored by Teen Court.

“You don’t know what it’s like to close the coffin lid on your child for the last time,” Robinson said. “No parent should have to go through that experience. My son ran the 100-meter dash in 10.2 seconds, but he couldn’t outrun the bullets.

“It’s not like you see on TV, or in video games or in the movies. My son was shot twice in the front, five times in the back. They had to put his heart, lungs and liver in a plastic baggie. It’s like having a 600-pound man on my chest. But I knew he would be angry with me if I was less than a mom (to his two younger siblings).”

Robinson said her son returned to his high school in Hyde Park near the University of Chicago — an upper middle class area — on that fateful day to tell his track coach he tried out for the U.S. Olympic track team. From there, it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Dec. 16, 1991 was also Robinson’s 38th birthday. His last words to her on the telephone were, “Happy Birthday Mama, I really love you.”

Reginald Bell, 20, and Patrick Roland, 16, were high on cocaine and waiting outside the high school, Kenwood Academy.

Bell was a ward of the state and spent this youth in the juvenile correction system. He was released from prison four months prior to shooting Elizalde. He was also homeless and in a gang.

Roland’s father was an architect and his mother an alcoholic, Robinson said. He felt slighted by someone at a party similar to Elizalde’s description and hired Bell as his hitman and supplied him with drugs and a gun.

Robinson has been an advocate against youth violence ever since. She was one of the first National Parent of the Weeks on the Oprah Winfrey program. She now lives in Lafayette, La. and works with law enforcement agencies in addition to speaking at conference and seminars.

“It can happen anywhere. My son wanted to a doctor and he was a member of the math and science team. It shouldn’t had happened,” she said. “Parents, constantly be the wind beneath their wings (their children) and you’ll see how far they’ll go.”

“Kids, this is your start-it-all-over day. You need a desire to do better. You have the tools and you have life and the gift of yourself. This is about you,” she said. “Stop disbelieving in your soul to do great things. You can change anything but death. Take time to build relationships and make valuable friends. Never be too old to learn.”

She concluded by telling the youth to have a successful attitude rather than a negative one and to set an example of being more caring.

“Do not think you’re immune to tragedy,” Robinson said.