By Rose Quinn
Published in the Monday, June 21, 2021 edition of the Delaware County Daily Times
Dwayne Briscoe Jr. was still in grade school when he started getting busy on his college checklist.
His parents, Dwayne Briscoe Sr. and LaTasha Lampkin Briscoe, had no clue until the day LaTasha answered a phone call from a college and heard a voice asking to speak to Mr. Briscoe. “Do you want my husband or my son because my son is only 11,” she recently recalled asking at the time.
Not long after that phone call, information packets from schools from all over the country started showing up in the mailbox at their Chester home.
As he would talk about his future, Dwayne Jr. knew that he wanted to move away from the violence plaguing his hometown, and he wanted to graduate from college, though he had no specific one in mind. What he didn’t know was how to succinctly describe his professional aspirations – until LaTasha introduced him to a new word: Entrepreneur.
“Mom, that’s what I want to be. I’m going to be the one to put you in a big house,” she recalled him saying with pure happiness.
The memory made LaTasha laugh, and then cry. Dwayne Jr. never got to realize his dreams.
Looking back, she knew that in Dwayne Jr.’s young mind, there was nothing that could stand in the way of him finding success and buying her the house of her dreams.
Then the unthinkable happened. Dwayne Jr.’s dreams were lost in a barrage of 13 bullets.
Dwayne Briscoe Jr. died of multiple gunshot wounds to his body, face and head on March 2, 2020, 20 days after his 16th birthday. He was in the 10th grade at Chester High School.
- Fatally shot shortly before 12:14 p.m. on March 2, 2020, outside in the 2600 block of McCarey Street in Chester.
- Homicide investigation is ongoing by Detective Brian Pot of the Chester Police Department and Sgt. Lawrence Patterson of the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division.
- Anyone with information is asked to contact Pot at 610-447-8431 or [email protected], or Patterson at 610-891-4126.
‘Full of surprises’
Born on February 11, 2004, Dwayne Jr., the third of four siblings, was an especially happy baby. His nicknames were “Wop Wop,” a moniker his uncle Christopher Brisco gave him during LaTasha’s pregnancy, and “Nukies,” after his attachment to his pacifier as an infant, among others.
“He was special from the time he was born,” LaTasha said of Dwayne Jr.’s sweet nature, and closeness to his family.
“He had a big heart. He cared about people,” she said.
As Dwayne Jr. got older, “He would walk all over Chester just to visit and spend time with relatives,” Dwayne Sr. said. Dwayne Jr. was 14 when he became an uncle, equally thrilled with his new role and title as he was with his new nephew, Chance.
Dwayne Jr. was especially close to his maternal grandmother, Annie Briscoe, who died in 2014. For his 16th birthday, he got a tattoo of angel wings wrapped around the name Annie on his right arm to memorialize her.
According to his father, Dwayne Jr. and Annie shared a passion for good food.
As a toddler, LaTasha amusingly recalled, Dwayne Jr. would hide food in a corner of his mouth, as if to save it for later. In later years, his appetite would be curbed by medication he took after being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“But he made up for lost time when he was weaned off the medication at 13,” LaTasha said. The Hungry Man breakfast entrée at the Upland Diner was among his favorites, “and he could clean his plate,” she said.
“We all know how he loved to eat,” reads a line in Dwayne Jr.’s obituary.
Dwayne Jr. also liked to cook, everything from pancakes to chicken to cheesesteaks, and a few side dishes, too. His mother called him her sous chef.
“He made the best deviled eggs in the world,” said LaTasha.
“His pancakes were the best,” said Dwayne Sr.
Dwayne Jr. loved animals. He also loved music of all kinds, including “oldies” groups like the Temptations. He was “a pretty good rapper, too,” according to his dad.
Dwayne Jr. liked to dance, play Fortnite and watch “Stranger Things” on Netflix. A hoodie was his go-to attire. Blue was his favorite color, Thanksgiving his favorite holiday, and the Philadelphia Eagles his favorite football team – though New Orleans Saints Super Bowl XLIV-winning quarterback Drew Brees was his favorite pro football player
Dwayne Sr. couldn’t help but boast his son’s athletic accomplishments. Dwayne Jr. played football for the Upland Hurricanes from ages 5 to 11 and during that time he was “the beast” at playing running back, his dad said. When he tired of football, Dwayne Jr. turned to baseball, joining the Jackie Robinson League where he played all positions. He also played baseball for the Chester Community Charter School. Later, Dwayne Jr. became a huge fan of the University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball team, and perhaps even envisioned himself a student there one day, according to his mom.
During the time his father was employed by Spectra, Dwayne Jr. was a fan and frequent spectator of many Philadelphia Union soccer matches. It wasn’t unusual to see him riding his bike on the stadium grounds.
His parents said Dwayne Jr. liked to earn money, but at the same time, he did not mind doing things for other people without pay.
“He was an amazing young man,” Dwayne Sr. said. “He could have a conversation with anyone about anything … Every adult loved him.”
There was no denying Dwayne Jr.’s soft spot for senior citizens. He frequently volunteered with his mother on Saturdays at the adult daycare at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, helping the men and women with activities like coloring, and other interests.
“That’s when I found out Dwayne knew how to play piano a little … He was always full of surprises,” LaTasha said.
The song he played at the time was “All of Me” by John Legend. When she asked him about it, Dwayne Jr. told her his music teacher taught him to play it.
‘I knew he was already gone’Dwayne Jr. was excited to turn 16 for a few reasons. On his birthday, LaTasha made him a special dinner – spaghetti baked with cheese and pepperoni, a dish he had once in Virginia and raved about. It was the first time his mom tried the recipe.
In addition to the tattoo of his beloved grandmother, Dwayne Jr. got an upgraded iPhone.
It was also the magic age that permitted him to apply to the Job Corps training program for young adults, which he promptly did.
“Mom, this was the best birthday ever,” Dwayne Jr. told his mom that night, she recalled.
For the family, March 1, 2020, was a typical Sunday. LaTasha has played the day over in her mind, holding on to every detail of the last time she saw Dwayne Jr. alive.
That evening, she made a big dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes and biscuits.
Afterward, Dwayne Jr. announced he was going to go to see his maternal grandmother, Violet Haley, and spend the night at her house. He knew cousins were there that he hadn’t seen in a while, and he wanted to visit with them. LaTasha had already told Dwayne Jr. he didn’t have to go to school the next day, allowing him some cooling off time following a situation that occurred the week before.
According to LaTasha, it was about 7 p.m. when Dwayne Jr. left their house on McDowell Avenue to catch a bus to the city’s West End. The following day, he and his brother were standing outside Haley’s house on McCarey Street when the first of 13 gunshots rang out.
Haley, 60, was inside the house, along with another relative.
In all probability, Dwayne Jr. never saw the shooters aiming his way, according to Detective Brian Pot of the Chester Police Department.
Chester police officers were dispatched to the 2600 block of McCarey Street for a report of shots fired at about 12:14 p.m.
LaTasha was in her car on the opposite side of the city when her cell phone rang, about 12:15 p.m. It was her mother telling her that Dwayne Jr. had been shot.
“I think I did two 360s in the intersection,” LaTasha said, recalling her frantic behavior. She called Dwayne Sr., picked him up at their house about a half-mile away, and then headed to Crozer-Chester Medical Center.
“We passed an ambulance, and I knew Nukies was in it,” she said. She doesn’t remember hearing any siren.
“I knew he was already gone,” she said. At Crozer, the parents were escorted into a private room where three doctors confirmed their fears.
“I remember just falling to my knees,” she said. “All I could do was pray for strength. I knew I had to be strong for my family.”
LaTasha and Dwayne Sr. wanted to break the news about Dwayne Jr.’s death to their other son, who suffered two graze wounds in the gunfire and was also being treated at Crozer.
‘Till we meet again’
For Dwayne Jr.’s funeral services at Mount Zion C.M.E. Church in Sharon Hill, LaTasha said it was standing room only. They chartered a bus for his school friends. A few soccer players even came to offer their condolences.
“We should have picked a bigger church,” she said.
Rebecca Collins-Rawls, a close relative as well as Dwayne Jr.’s Head Start teacher for two years, had the “bittersweet” role of eulogizing her young cousin. In preparing her words, she knew she wanted to let the young people gathered know that they can live in Chester and not be part of the violence that goes on.
“You can be in this world and not of this world,” she said recently, recapping her words that difficult day. “I wanted them to know that you can make an honest living. You can set yourself apart from everybody else. This is what Dwayne did.”
As part of her eulogy, Collins-Rawls shared these lyrics she rewrote to the rap song “Woah” by Lil Baby:
Trying to school and
Work and then be coolin
After graduation thoughts
Like what I am pursuing
Shots fired oh no
Got me moving real slow
Shots fire on and on
Tell me what is going on
The violence in these streets have
Got to go
Because my heart can’t take it anymore
It’s time for us to do something for
Nukies till we meet again
Nukies till we meet again
Nukies till we meet again
Collins-Rawls knew Dwayne Jr. was a fan of the rap song. She had seen a video of him dancing around to the song during a break while he was practicing a more serious routine in advance of Kayla Sample’s Sweet 16 party. Due to bad weather, Dwayne Jr. didn’t go to his longtime friend’s celebration, and though he was disappointed, he told his mom there would be many other opportunities for them to dance together. Tragically, that wasn’t the case.
Kayla Sample of Upper Darby was among the many mourners at Dwayne Jr.’s funeral.
“It was easy to talk about him but eulogizing him was not easy. That was my baby cousin,” Collins-Rawls said of Dwayne Jr. “He was doing everything right … He could walk from one end of the city to the other. He didn’t fear walking through the different neighborhoods. A lot of kids can’t do that.”
Collins-Rawls still questions why Dwayne Jr.
“I know none of us are exempt, but why? He was out front of his grandmother’s house, a place you consider safe. When home is no longer safe, what do you do?”
A couple weeks after Dwayne Jr.’s death, his parents received notification for him to set up his first appointment with the Job Corps, to begin figuring out exactly what he wanted to get out of the training program.
Two months after his death, his family moved to their new home in Chester Township.
“I was ready to go. It was too hard to be there without Dwayne Jr.,” she said of the McDowell Avenue house.
In the living room at the new house, there is a curio his parents bought to hold Dwayne Jr.’s ashes, along with some of their son’s favorite things.
On Dwayne Jr.’s birthday this year, his family gathered for dinner. For the second time, the family feasted on spaghetti baked with cheese and pepperoni – this time prepared by Dwayne Jr.’s godmother, LaTisha Reed. Twenty days later, on the first anniversary of Dwayne Jr.’s death, his family gathered outside Violet Haley’s home on McCarey Street and released balloons.
“I just miss him,” LaTasha said. “I miss his smile. I miss our disagreements. I miss him walking into a room. I miss our time together.”
Dwayne Sr. misses so many things about his son, including his excellent sense of direction. Dwayne Jr. was his father’s personal GPS.
Some of Dwayne Jr.’s friends still check on his parents. When they do, Dwayne Sr. and LaTasha are reminded their son had been happy, and that he had been, and still is, loved.
Gunned down in broad daylight
When the gunfire ceased on the afternoon of March 2, 2020, authorities recovered 13 shell casings determined to have been fired from two semiautomatic firearms.
“While we have exhausted several leads, the investigation remains active,” said Chester Police Commissioner Steven Gretsky. “The victim in this case was gunned down in broad daylight and we know there are individuals out there with information.”
Authorities have no suspects in the homicide and no scenario has been ruled out, but investigators think that Dwayne Briscoe Jr. may have been targeted by mistake.
According to lead detectives Pot and Lawrence Patterson of the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division, the working theory is the shooting stemmed from an ongoing turf dispute.
“Without a doubt, who they thought they were shooting at, they wanted that person dead,” said Pot, adding that Dwayne Jr. was by all accounts a good kid with no criminal history or suspected criminal involvement.
Investigators have video showing two people in a white Ford Escape, a driver and a front seat passenger. The grainy footage shows the sport utility vehicle traveling west on 10th Street, then making a right turn onto McCarey Street where it slows to an almost complete stop. The passenger exited the SUV and standing little more than a car’s length from the victims, is seen firing in their direction and then returning to the SUV, which sped off.
The Ford Escape, which was recovered in the 500 block of Doran Street in Chester, had been reported stolen in Yeadon on Feb. 21, 2020.
Police do not know for sure how many suspects were in the vehicle at the time of the shooting, only that five recovered shell casings were fired from one firearm, and the other eight were fired from a different gun.
Dwayne Jr.’s dreams of going to college and becoming an entrepreneur will never be. Nowadays, his parents are trying to move on, but mostly they wait for another phone call – the one where they are told that those responsible for their son’s murder have been arrested.
“I pray every day for that phone call,” LaTasha said. “I want justice for my son. My son didn’t just die. He was murdered.”
Second in a special and occasional series in partnership with the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.