Friday, September 4, 2009

Slain Student Dreamed Of Attending Spelman College

Jasmine Lynn loved school so much, her mother said, it was hard to believe she died not far from the university she had dreamed of going to since seventh grade.

She was 802 miles away from her home in Kansas City, Mo., the first in her family to go to college.

Now just two weeks into her sophomore year, police said, she was killed early Thursday walking near Spelman College.

“I never in a million years would’ve thought she’d be killed at school,” said her mother, Constance Franklin.

The 19-year-old psychology major was struck by a stray bullet, the victim of the kind of senseless violence she might have healed some day.

She came to Atlanta to make her family proud.

“She had a big heart,” said her grandmother Carolyn Williams. “She loved people, and people loved her.”

Thursday her Kansas City home was filled with friends and family trading stories about Jasmine — how much she loved school, adored her grandmother and hated polka dots.

In the 24 hours since Jasmine was slain, Franklin and Williams have not been alone.

There is strength in feeling so much warmth around, Franklin said. Even as Franklin spoke on the telephone, Jasmine’s cousin Sasha Block and former classmates were planning a candlelight vigil in a nearby park. Miles away, and just minutes apart, her Spelman sisters held a memorial in front of the college’s main gate.

As the chatter of friends and family provided the background music to an otherwise dreary day, Franklin laughed remembering her little girl.

She loved the color green, and when she sat down to a meal, her favorite was “grandma’s cooking,” Franklin said.

With the same intensity, she hated polka dots. Once, Franklin recalled, she dressed Jasmine in a blue dress with white polka dots for church. Jasmine was so mortified, her mother said, she sat in the bathroom rather than go to the children’s class.

Franklin then brought her into the main sanctuary. When members complimented Jasmine on her dress, “She burst into tears,” her mother said, laughing.

Growing up, Jasmine never missed a day of school, Franklin said. It didn’t matter whether there was a snowstorm or a death in the family.

If it snowed and the school doors were shut, Franklin said, Jasmine never believed her. She always had to confirm it with her trusted grandmother and best friend.

“I used to tell her if I died, she’d go to school,” Franklin said.

Williams said Jasmine told her years ago that if she went away to college, Spelman had to be the place.

By the time she entered Lincoln College Preparatory Academy her mind was made up. Jasmine got busy building her résumé: earning a 4.0 grade-point average, working in school government, playing varsity basketball and participating in the JROTC drill team.

Always outgoing, she had a slew of friends, including Simone McGary and 1st Sgt. Herman Brown.

For 13 years, Brown said he’d greeted his JROTC students with a fake handshake — an outstretched hand and a quick withdrawal.

None of his students had the kind of quick comeback Jasmine did.

“Old man, you better watch that,” she said as she patted Brown on the shoulder.

And that, he said, was his introduction to Jasmine.

“She was kindhearted,” he said. “She really embodied the fruit of the spirit. Even on a bad day, she was a very kind, loving person. She embraced everyone with peace and harmony.”

Brown said Lynn continued to visit him after her time in JROTC was up.

“She always came back to see how I was doing,” Brown said. “That’s caring. That’s really caring.”

Sometimes, he said, they argued over who was the best dancer. Then one day in the hallway, Jasmine broke into a dance. Brown cut a few steps himself.

Who was the best dancer?

“She was by a long shot,” he said.

Then in a tearful moment, the teacher said: “Coming in this morning knowing we lost a member of our family is painful. With all the qualifications Jasmine had, the thing that made her a top-notch person was that she was very humble. She had a teachable spirit. She was one who would take correction or chastisement with a smile.”

McGary called Jasmine a true friend, someone you could count on to be there and to be honest.

“She never ‘sugarcoated’ anything,” McGary wrote in response to a Facebook query. “But the thing about Jasmine that I valued most was ... under any circumstance, I knew she was ALWAYS THERE!!!”

Williams said that other than her granddaughter’s drive to stand above the crowd, that’s what they loved most about her.

And she said they were particularly proud of her for wanting to get a college degree.

The family rallied around her, holding a fish fry to send her off and help defray expenses.

Jasmine earned an academic scholarship and several grants, but even that wasn’t enough, said Franklin, a single mother.

This past summer, Jasmine earned enough through an internship to buy a 2002 Chrysler 300 so she could drive herself to Atlanta, instead of requiring her family to provide transportation.

A psychology major, Jasmine planned to get her master’s and, perhaps, study pre-law, her mother said. After her first year at Spelman, she had a 3.8 gpa.

Karen Brakke, chairwoman of the psychology department, said Jasmine was just a week into her major, so “we in the department hadn’t really had a chance to get to know her.”

Still, she said, “We considered her one of our own.”

One man is in custody in connection with the shooting death of 19-year-old Spelman student Jasmine Lynn who was struck in the chest by a stray bullet as she returned to her dorm last night.

A memorial for Jasmine Lynn is scheduled for 8 p.m. in front of Spelman’s main gate on Westview Drive. The memorial is being organized by students, not the college, a campus spokeswoman said.

Lynn, of Kansas City, Mo., was walking south on James P. Brawley Drive around 12:30 a.m. when a fight broke out among a group of men on the corner of Mitchell Street and James P. Brawley Drive.

A friend who was walking with Lynn saw the altercation and the gun and she warned Lynn to take cover, but it was too late. Police questioned one man at Grady hospital who was chased, tackled and stomped by bystanders who were tired of the senseless violence.

But police say the gunman got away.

Danays Marquez, a Morris Brown College freshman from Miami, said she heard 5 gunshots and saw Lynn fall to the ground. “She was drenched in blood and it looked like she was taking her last breath,” said Marquez.

Jerome Jones, an 18-year-old student from Clark Atlanta, was struck in the wrist by a stray bullet. He was treated at Grady Memorial and released.

Loneia Powell, a 20-year-old Clark Atlanta junior from Columbus, said it’s not unusual to hear gunshots near the campus.

“Look at the area we’re near,” she said. “It happens all the time.”