‘It’s a tragedy’Published 1:57pm Saturday, June 30, 2012
Friendly. Honest. Respectable. The words have been used repeatedly by people from all around Atmore to describe Kendrick Lamon Dortch in the days following the shooting death of the 38-year-old father of two and aspiring businessman who, people say, had his sights set on more than just turning a profit.
Johnson Ford owner Jim Johnson said Kendrick was one of his best employees and had aspirations of turning his car detailing business into an arcade for local kids. His dedication to the plan was so steadfast, Johnson said, that he was basically living in the building, with plans to pour all of his money into renovations and then find an apartment off site. Kendrick never got the chance to do either. Instead, his body was found in the business parking lot early Tuesday morning by a passing motorist. He had been shot once — in the back.
“It’s a tragedy.” That’s how Johnson described Kendrick’s death. Johnson said Kendrick had worked for his dealership in the Internet sales department since January and was, among other things, a model employee.
“Kendrick did a great job,” Johnson said. “In the short time he had been with us, he had really become part of the family. He was the first one in the morning and he would unlock things for us. The customers loved him and his coworkers loved him. He was just a friendly, honest, straight up guy.”
Susan Wilson, a co-worker at Johnson Ford, said Kendrick had big plans for the building on Ridgeley Street where he was found dead early Tuesday morning. Currently housing his car detailing business, KLD Enterprises, Wilson said Kendrick had plans to turn the building into an arcade/pool hall in the hopes that he could give Atmore’s youth an alternative to “running the streets.”
Wilson said “I told him, I said ‘Kendrick, you know those arcades can be trouble. You’re going to have thugs hanging around.’ And he said, ‘But you know if young people had somewhere to go it would keep them off the streets.’”
“Now I’m sitting here thinking the very people he was trying to help are the ones who came and killed him,” Wilson said.
Thursday, just over 48 hours after Kendrick’s body was found, Atmore Police Department took two Atmore men into custody for the murder – including16-year-old De’Anthony Dailey who is suspected to be the actual gunman.
Kendrick’s aunt, Sandra Gray, raised Kendrick from the time he was a very young boy, watched him graduate from Escambia County High School and helped put him through business school at Alabama State University in Montgomery. She said losing Kendrick has been exactly like losing a son.
“He lived with us on and off for a long time,” Gray said. “He is like a son and a brother to my son.”
Gray said the tragedy of Kendrick’s death is only heightened by the loss of all of the good he could have done, and planned to do, for Atmore’s youth.
“He wanted to give them a place to play pool, and games and stay out of trouble,” she said. “He didn’t want any alcohol or things like that involved. He just wanted to have a place where kids could go and play board games and Playstation and things like that. Kendrick just loved people and he loved talking to people.”
Gray said the men that have been arrested did not know her nephew personally, but had threatened him in the past.
“They had tried to rob him before,” she said. “(The same guys) tried to rob him while he was walking his dog in front of his business a few weeks ago. And you could see them sometimes watching the place.”
Gray said she believed Kendrick had reported the attempted robbery to the authorities. Atmore Police Chief Jason Dean said, while he was aware of the rumor of an encounter prior to this week’s incident, no official report was ever logged into the police department.
While the motivations behind the robbery are still unclear, Johnson and Gray agreed the presence of the pool tables and other machines were the most likely targets of the attempted theft.
“People knew he had that stuff in there,” Johnson said. “And he drove a nice car. It was a company car. But I’m sure they saw that. And they went in there before anyone got to put the first quarter into any of the things he had.”
“They were watching him,” Gray said. “So they knew what was there.”
Gray said she had been told by several people that Kendrick, who dropped her own son off at her home only hours before his death, had possibly visited Wind Creek Casino later that evening. Gray said if he had won some money and was being watched, it could have played a role in his death, but added she was told only $8 was found between Kendrick and his assailants.
Regardless of the motivations of the people who attempted to rob Kendrick Dortch, and ultimately took his life with a single gun blast to the back, those who knew him are beginning to emerge from the disbelief of his death and are reflecting on the person taken from them so suddenly.
“We just sat around in shock Tuesday,” Johnson said.
“He was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed,” said Jeremy Clark, a close friend and co-worker at Johnson Ford.
“He was a great guy, upbeat all the time,” Wilson said. “I never heard him say anything off color or disrespectful in any way about anyone or anything. He gave Johnson Ford 100 percent, usually being the first one there or the last one to leave at night and he had high goals. He wanted to own his own business that would be a place that would help or be of service to the community.”
“He was just so concerned about giving young children something to do,” Gray said, adding Kendrick would still spend some nights at her home, but was increasingly staying at his business to work through the night on the renovations.
“That night my son asked him to stay with us,” she said. “And he said no, he was going to stay at his business and work on some microphones for a karaoke machine.”
It was the last time Gray saw him alive. Kendrick leaves behind grandparents, both parents, three brothers, a 9-year-old daughter, Madison, and a 12-year-old son, Tyler.
Funeral services have been set for Tuesday, July 3 at 1 p.m. at Mt. Gilead Baptist Church, followed by burial at Stallworth Cemetery.