On the night Amon Rice was shot he was facing down a group of other teenagers. They met in the early evening on Greenlake Drive, a half mile long road in the recesses of Lower Richland County off Leesburg Road where the suburbs give way to rural lands. At one end of Greenlake is the Unity Missionary Baptist Church and at the other end the asphalt crumbles to a dirt road leading into the woods. On the evening of May 10 along this stretch Rice, 17-years-old, was standing up for a younger classmate. That classmate was the subject of ridicule for his height by the group that Rice was now staring down. That’s the story the young man’s mother tells through her tears as she remembers her son.
“He was helping a little boy in the 9th grade. He kept telling him, ‘You got to stand up,’” says Antrinette Le’teas Means, Rice’s mother. “He was telling him he, ‘Couldn’t let these kids bully you.’ … He was telling them [the ridiculers], ‘You can’t fight this little boy.’”
Rice passed away in the hospital on May 12 after the confrontation that night. Richland County Sheriff’s Department have not confirmed that the fight that turned deadly was a confrontation over bullying.
“This incident is still under investigation,” said Capt Maria Yturria of the Sheriff’s Department. “It is not believed to be gang related, however we believe several individuals made arrangements to meet at the location to settle a dispute. The specific of the dispute is unknown at this time. Investigators are interviewing witness who may be able to provide more information either on what happened or who was there. The relationship between the victim and others is unknown at this time.”
According to people close to Rice, what was supposed to be a fist fight, others decided to bring a gun to, which brought a different and tragic end to the night for Rice’s friends, family, and his mentor Robert McCray — Coach Rob to Rice. McCray was a basketball and football coach for Rice since he was 7 years old. McCray remembers Rice for playing the way he lived — by supporting those around him.
“He loved love loved his teammates,” McCray says. “He was just that kind of kid — very caring.”
Rice attended Lower Richland High School where he played basketball and football. He also played basketball for Team Wall, a team in the Amateur Athletic Union — a league often seen as a stepping stone to a college or profession career. He was known for wearing number 10 by the people who knew him. When he was a young child, whenever he was in a Walmart or drugstore he’d go straight to the ball section his mother remembers. Pushing himself to be better through sports was Rice’s life.
“His drive was he had to do better,” Means says. “If he was dribbling the ball and couldn’t get it to go through the legs, he’d sit there until he got it.”
Rice pushed his teams the same way he did himself, which, at times, made his coaches have to remind him who the actual coaches were his mother recalls with laughter.
“If you were slack he was fussing at you like he was the coach,“ Means says. “The kids say they’re going to miss that sportsmanship in him. [Amon] felt he protected. He felt he had to protect the shorter kids because he was always so little.”
McCray witnessed the same determination and loyalty when Rice was on the field or the court.
“Whatever position you put him in he played hard,” the coach says. “There’s a million stories you could tell. He was there for his teams always. If someone was on the ground, he runs and picks them up.”
Rice took his character and sense of fairness to Greenlake Drive the night he was shot from McCray’s understanding.
”[Rice] was just trying to get it solve,” McCray says. “Never thought it was going to be gunshots or anything. … That’s what cost him his life, taking up for someone.”
While authorities are still investigating what happened that night, a few details are clear. A number of shots were fired — more than a dozen WIS reported at the time of the incident. Another person was also shot and sustained a non-life threatening injury. That person is now out of the hospital. Rice was shot in the head and later went brain dead, dying in the hospital a couple days later according to his mother. Speaking with WIS Means said her son was first found by nearby people who asked if Amon wanted them to call his mother.
“He looked at her with a tear that fell out his eye and said ‘I want you to call my mama,’” Means said.
That Amon was abandoned by the people who came with him that night adds pain to an already pain filled death for the mother of the slain youth.
“No one would ever give me understanding why they shot my baby,” Mean says, her emotions overcoming her. “They left my baby on the ground. That’s something I’ll never forget. Because Amon stood up for everybody around him.”
Means has heard that other kids in the community want to retaliate for Rice’s death. She’s pleading with them to not take such action and to let the police and courts handle her son’s death.
A memory of that Means holds of her son helps her balance the nature of his death. A working, local R&B singer, Means believes she passed her voice onto her son. He was a good singer himself she says. Around the house or in the car, Amon liked to sing two songs. Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” and “I Got To” by T-Rell with the lyrics, “I got to get my mama out the hood. … Work hard and follow dreams, stick close to your team, I swear these streets is mean.”
“He would always sing that song and say that he’d do that one day,” she says.