By Leah Finnegan and Jack Mirkinson
It had been two weeks since Brian Scott was shot and killed when on Sunday the friends who knew him as Cozmik, the peerless inline roller blader, gathered to raise money for his tombstone.
They had not wanted to come to his wake. They were not really connected to Scott in the outside world, only through the realm of skating. So instead, they came from across the city to the Coleman Skate Park under the Manhattan Bridge to honor his memory in the element in which they knew him best.
In the skating world, friends know each other through the way they move across concrete. You are what you can do. And so between laps of the park, Scott’s friends remembered with awe how he navigated from ground to ledge to rail to air and back on his skates.
They were a disparate bunch. There was Adonis Taylor, 25, a muscled architecture student. Layla Ferrer, 18, an amateur magazine editor with blonde streaks in her hair. Brandon Llanes, 14, wearing a sweatshirt on which he drew Scott’s name.
They all wore their requisite chunky inline skates, ripped jeans and slack hoodies, flannels and beanies. They slapped each other’s backs and high-fived and watched each other show off. When one of them wiped out, they crowded around him to make sure he was okay.
Skating is a safe sport, in that it leaves you no time do anything else, no time to get into trouble. So when Scott was shot and killed at a Flatbush coffee shop earlier this month, the skating world was rocked. Scott was 18. Police say his murder was a case of mistaken identity.
Scott made a name for himself doing things on roller blades that set him apart from the other skaters. He nailed true top souls, where a skater speeds up to a ledge, turns into it blind and grinds across it with one foot turned inward. He could do a Barani flip, a treacherous front flip with a 180-degree turn. He could spin. His prowess earned him widespread respect.
Ramelle Knight, a successful skater in his own right, was one of Scott’s mentors. He had recently sponsored Scott through a skating group called Gentlemens’ Klub, the junior league of DipSkate, his larger operation. Knight foresaw a promising future for Scott. “From the first time he came around I knew there was something special about him,” Knight said.
He teared up remembering Scott’s blading skill, particularly when it came to a trick known as the porn star – a complicated move that ends in a full spin off of a ledge. “He could do it, eyes closed,” Knight said.
Scott’s friends remembered him as good-humored and driven. He wanted to be an actor, one said, and go to a performing arts college. Many of them had not seen Scott at their usual skating haunts in the weeks preceding his death because of school. He was a straight-A student at Satellite Academy High School in Manhattan.
On the night of his death, Scott had gone to Parkside Coffee and Donut shop to get food, said a neighbor, Newton Hallal. By all accounts, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was standing in front of two other men, believed to be the intended targets, when a gunman in a green jacket blazed by the store and opened fire. Scott was hit in the back and went down. The two other men were shot but survived.
News of Scott’s death spread quickly. Some took the early MySpace status updates and Instant Messenger away messages acknowledging the loss to be a joke. But then the messages began to multiply. “I turned off my Xbox and started crying,” Suki Davila, 25, a short, wiry man swimming in baggy clothes said. He used to watch skating videos with Scott at his Lower East Side apartment.
Adonis Taylor arrived at the site at 4 a.m., almost eight hours after the shooting.
“They had just finished washing the blood up so the sidewalk was full of water,” Taylor said. He left a pair of skate boots at a makeshift memorial next to the restaurant. He had had written “Why?” on them. Over the course of the next day, the memorial grew to include pictures of Scott, prayer messages, skating paraphernalia and more than 40 flickering candles.
But his friends did not linger at his place of death. Instead, they remembered Scott through what first made them notice him. They made T-shirts and finger skates to sell to raise money. They dug into their own pockets. Altogether, they raised $649 for his tombstone. As night fell on the skate park, the crowd lingered strong, laughing and skating as they would had Scott been there.