Rajaan Bennett’s death hard to come to grips with

To express sympathies to the family of Rajaan Bennett, follow this link to Legacy.com.
Rajaan Bennett was a leader on and off the field for McEachern High School. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Rajaan Bennett was a leader on and off the field for McEachern High School. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

I got the call early Thursday morning from our breaking news desk.

There had been a shooting death. It involved a high school football player, I was told. A “big-time player,” one that had been recruited and signed a college scholarship. At that point we had no IDs.

A little while later I was informed this player went to McEachern High School and had signed a scholarship to Vanderbilt. I knew immediately it was Rajaan Bennett.

In that instant it was like somebody just punched me in the gut and all the air left my body.

My first thought was, “Rajaan Bennett? Really? How could that be? Such a good kid. Who’d shoot him?”

Then details slowly began to pour in. A domestic dispute. A murder-suicide. The mother’s ex-boyfriend. Bennett, 18, had been “the man of the house.”

Bennett (ESPN photo)

Bennett (ESPN photo)

I don’t want to mischaracterize. I was not close to Bennett personally. My relationship with him was professional, as one voice on the phone to another. I called him throughout the recruiting process to find out what was going on. But you really feel like you get to know someone when you talk to them regularly over several months.

There toward the end it could have been Louisville or Kentucky or Vanderbilt for Bennett. Not surprisingly he went with the best education.

The breaking news desk needed my help because I know the coaches and have all the numbers. They wanted me to call McEachern coach Kyle Hockman.

Talk about assignments you dread.

For six months last year I worked as a reporter on the AJC’s breaking news team. During that time I covered the triple murder and suicide of Professor George Zinkhan, a little boy’s shooting death by his grandfather in Commerce, the parking deck collapse downtown and countless fires and fatalities.

So you’d think I’d be used to such things. Truth is, you never are.

Coach Hockman answered his cell knowing what I needed. We both struggled through the conversation.

“I don’t know the timing of it,” Hockman told me, his voice deep and heavy with grief. “I just don’t know a lot more information.”

When did you find out, I asked?

“About 5 this morning.”

I started to ask another question and Hockman cut me off.

“The school is going to release a statement later this morning,” Hockman said. “I don’t want to talk further right now. Maybe later I can talk to you personally. I’m sorry.”

“He was a good kid wasn’t he, Coach?” I said.

“Just one of the best ever.”

Choking back emotion, Hockman hung up.

I’ll give you all the football data. Bennett was team captain. He was 5-foot-11, 210-pounds, all muscle. He carried the ball 236 times for 1,857 yards and scored 29 touchdowns to lead McEachern to an undefeated regular season. He was the Class AAAAA offensive player of the year, first-team Class AAAAA All-State and No. 25 on the AJC’s Fab 50.

But that’s not what the folks in Powder Springs are going to remember. I hearken back to Coach Hockman’s words on the occasion of Bennett signing with Vanderbilt University.

“I’m sure you want to talk about Rajaan on the football field, but I promise he’s a better person than he is player,” Hockman said. “He has a great head on his shoulders, a guy that has been the man in his household for quite a while, yet still worked to maintain a solid GPA in class and become such a great player. Rajaan is both humble and hard working. He’s a guy that is very respected by his teammates and the McEachern community. I think the world of this young man.”

So did a lot of people.

159 comments Add your comment

rip

February 18th, 2010
10:05 am

SouthGARules

February 18th, 2010
10:12 am

Condolences to Rajaan’s family & to Vanderbilt. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Vandy has had a tragedy to deal with. I remember Kwame Doster, a RB from Tampa, was shot & killed in the Tampa area while at Vandy. I don’t remember the exact year, but I think in the Bobby Johnson era.

Clint

February 18th, 2010
10:15 am

Chris, that is a stupid and ignorant thing to say. Did you not read the story? He wasn’t killed for hanging out with the wrong crowd or anything like that. He was killed in a domestic dispute. You sound like a racist and an idiot. The type of person that gives Georgians a bad name. Please take your bs some place else.

Mike S

February 18th, 2010
10:15 am

Chris, did you really need to bring that stupid crap in here? Read the story about the shooting before you go shooting your mouth off and make yourself look like an ignorant fool.

Rajaan Bennett was an honor student who was fixing to go to one of the most prestigious academic universities in the nation, and you come in here talking this bull.

he was killed by his mother’s loser boyfriend, who took away the most important thing in her life.

You are one sickening person.

KSUalltheway

February 18th, 2010
10:16 am

Chris did you even read the article? Is your comment even relevant to the story? A young man was killed in a murder-suicide by a whack job ex-boyfriend and you pull race out? Chris you are a POS!

JustMyOpinion

February 18th, 2010
10:17 am

Chris, I understand your point, but this is not the place or time. Please respect this kids family and also wait until all of the details come out before you past judgement. Thank you.

DORE

February 18th, 2010
10:18 am

Chris, shut up. Not the time nor the place to display your idiocy.

Sorrowful

February 18th, 2010
10:19 am

As much as everyone probably wants to bash this Chris character, let’s show our respect for Rajaan and focus on his life as a person and player and leave our hatred toward Chris for another blog.

wise

February 18th, 2010
10:19 am

this is awful news, RIP Rajaan and to “chris” please shut up. no matter who you are or what bad choices you make no one deserves to lose their life and you dont know the kid or his background all you know is he’s black.

Sorrowful

February 18th, 2010
10:19 am

nevermind…thanks AJC!

wise

February 18th, 2010
10:20 am

Please, Not Now

February 18th, 2010
10:21 am

Chris, now is not the time to be insensitive and pompous. The AJC’s reporting has laid out information around the shooting, and from that it is easy to see this is no “wrong crowd” scenario. His family, friends, classmates and teammates who post here will undoubtedly overrule your generality, but in the end an 18-year old with the world in front of him is dead this morning, to no fault of his own. If that does not touch you, please find something else to do today.

Jaxdawg

February 18th, 2010
10:21 am

Please erase Chris’s comment. No matter the circumstances this kid looked like he had an extremely bright future. This is a terrible trajedy. I had no connection to him, but still feel like this is quite a loss for the football community.

Nameless

February 18th, 2010
10:21 am

Simply Heartbreaking… RIP Rajaan.

Jaxdawg

February 18th, 2010
10:22 am

excellent move AJC

joyce dickerson

February 18th, 2010
10:22 am

Chris, you are a stupid a did you actually read it , it said his mom x-boyfriend shot him it did not say anything about a wrong crowd did you see the coach report and what a good kid he was…none of us know why he was shot x-boyfriend could of been mad with mom took out on kid to hurt her a numerous amt of things as they say kid was like the head of house, could be kid realized x-boyfriend was bad news and did not want mom to date but none of us know… white kids, asian kids, all grow up without fathers so what does that mean it shows you are just racist not because he was black but just because of your comments in general you probably would have said the same if he was hispanic,asian, or any denomination, what is your thought of the white man killing the white cop I guess that is okay white-on-white crime what was his motive?

The Non-ignorant Chris

February 18th, 2010
10:23 am

@ Chris- Read what the coach said about this kid you ignorant S.O.B. Read the original article. He graduated with a 3.3 GPA and he received a full scholarship to one of the leading acadimic institutions in the country. He was an outstanding individual. He was someone kids (black, white, hispanic, etc….) could look up to. What college did you attend? Step out of your double wide sometime and take a look at the real world. For a second i forgot ignorant piecies of WHITE TRASH still existed. No thanks for the reminder. IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!

Please, Not Now

February 18th, 2010
10:24 am

Thanks for removing Chris’s comment. It has no place.

OMacG

February 18th, 2010
10:24 am

Thank you for the passionate and accurate write-up, Chip. I can sincerely state there has not been a more respected young person come through McEachern in the history of the school…he was that rare human who cut across all lines of differences. We’ll always remember the runs he made carrying the football on Friday nights…runs that made grown men get misty-eyed watching from the stands. But Rajaan’s character and maturity inspired even more. Today, grown men in Powder Springs struggle to choke back deep, heaving sobs.

Dawg1

February 18th, 2010
10:25 am

The editor should immediately erase the comment from Chris. What kind of person are you to make a comment like that….obviously a racist, first and foremost. You know nothing about this kid. The column above is well written and still does little justice to the character of Rajaan Bennett. I know…because I knew him. The kid was a hero. Hanging around the wrong people? You are a coward for saying that. An angry ex-boyfriend was obviously ready to take the life of his mother and he obviously prevented that from occuring. In the process, he lost is life as a result. And Ms. Bennett’s brother was also shot. Sounds like two men were ready to make the ultimate sacrifice…one did. Rajaan Bennett was a hero and you are a coward. If you were in front of me right now…you would be minus the 3 teeth that you have in your mouth. You are a disgrace.

joyce dickerson

February 18th, 2010
10:26 am

Jaxdawg I agree it was a tragedy no matter what color of skin when someone gets kill it is bad and family suffers, just like cop raising his grandchild shot for no reason…the killings need to stop…

Michelle

February 18th, 2010
10:26 am

RIP Rajaan…… Chris before you comment on this article or any article, you should take the time to read it. I’ve been told that reading is quite fundamental!!!!!

RAJAAN WAS AN AWESOME KID!!! Unfortunately, he was in a bad situation! When someone TAKES your life and then kills themselves you suggest that it’s their fault. I am appa11ed by the ignorance that you have chosen to post here about a young talented black man, who would have been soon graduating with a 3.5 GPA and had recently received a full scholarship to Vanderbilt University.

Now as to him NOT having a father or father figure, again if you would have read then you would know that the father figure is the one who KILLED him!!!!

e-class

February 18th, 2010
10:30 am

this is a sad thing in mceachern highschool……

Kenny Powers

February 18th, 2010
10:30 am

Let’s all just forget about this Chris guy; i didn’t even see what he wrote, but based on the responses i get the gist. Kid was going to Vandy, what a good school that doesn’t bottom feed for speed, takes smart good kids.

Should name a scholarship after the kid for people who excel in spite of domestic violence.

[...] Rajaan Bennett’s death hard to come to grips with | AJC College … This post was written by TechLad on February 18, 2010 Posted Under: Trends Rajaan BennettI got the call early Thursday morning from our breaking news desk. There had been a shooting death. It involved a high school football player, I was.Read MoreRajaan Bennett’s death hard to come to grips with | AJC College …. [...]

Dave

February 18th, 2010
10:31 am

RIP Rajaan

terrible, terrible news. I remember reading about him on Rivals, a 4 star recruit going to Vanderbilt for an education, not just with wide eyes for the NFL said a lot about this young man. Atlanta lost a great child of God today. pray for the entire Bennett family and their loss.

Jaxdawg

February 18th, 2010
10:33 am

I agree with Kenny, divert attention from the “other” post and focus energy on how special Bennett’s achievements were

**Frederick(Bailey)Douglass**

February 18th, 2010
10:36 am

R.I.P Rajaan Bennett.

This is truly sad and amazing. Football is secondary on this one…what are we doing as a society that allows this kind of disaster? An adult male killing a male child full of promise. Then committing suicide? Unbelievably sad and indicative of the value of life in this…cruel world.

Think twice…three, four, five times before you act. Take a deep breath, walk away. But don’t do this…

Heartbroken

February 18th, 2010
10:37 am

The McEachern High School family is heartbroken by the loss of such an awesome football player.
But, more than that–Rajaan was an AWESOME person as well.
He was loved by many and will be missed.
He was an inspiration to so many.
Rest in Peace Rajaan. We will never forget you!

Woodstock

February 18th, 2010
10:37 am

What a horrible tragedy for the McEachern community. Our thoughts are with you. Rajaan was such a dynamic player and we mourn with his team and family.

The Non-ignorant Chris

February 18th, 2010
10:37 am

I would like to apologize for my heated comments earlier. I was speaking out of anger in response to someone who doesn’t matter at all. The only reason that guy wrote what he wrote is to get responses from us. Let’s ignore him and focus on the loss of a wonderful young man that is gon way too soon……R.I.P. Rajaan

Smith

February 18th, 2010
10:38 am

My heart goes out to this family and his mother. As a single mother of a teenage son I know he was trying to stand up for his mom and paid with his life. He appeared to be a well mannered all around kid. RIP and GOD bless.

........

February 18th, 2010
10:40 am

i was just working out with rajaan yesterday. i looked up to him and i cant think of anything negative about the guy. rip raajan

Dark Knight

February 18th, 2010
10:41 am

RIP Rajaan,
He went to school with my younger sister since middle school, and the kid was really a very good hearted kid. Also might I add very well spoken and well read at such a early age. This is tragic in every sense of the word, very tragic. Not to mention that he was a beast on the football field, think a young CJ Spiller.

Chip Towers

February 18th, 2010
10:42 am

To all: This Chris guy has been permanently banned.

Gen Neyland

February 18th, 2010
10:43 am

Senseless.

My heartfelt condolences to the Bennett family and friends of Rajaan.

Heartbroken

February 18th, 2010
10:43 am

Agree with Dark Knight–Rajaan was a very good hearted and fine young man.
Prayers for the Bennett family.
My heart grieves with yours.

McEachern Student

February 18th, 2010
10:44 am

RIP Mr.Bennet
Yoou will be truely missed
May God’s Mercy be on your soul and Family
For that bastered who killed you hope he suffer in hell
But anyway we will really miss you

Hillgrove

February 18th, 2010
10:45 am

Noticed and admired this kid since he was a sophomore – a true stud. What a terrible tragedy. RIP #5.

DTC

February 18th, 2010
10:46 am

Well said Dawg1. May God bring peace to this family that only He can.

RNB

February 18th, 2010
10:46 am

My sons both knew Rajaan at McEachern. Both thought the world of him. I suspect that — as the man of the house — he died trying to protect his family.

DTC

February 18th, 2010
10:47 am

Way to go Chip.

Lowndes

February 18th, 2010
10:47 am

Thanks for the great write-up Chip, and for doing the right thing by banning Chris permanently. No need for those types of comments about a young man who tragically lost his life at such an early age. I will continue to lift up the Bennett family in my prayers!!

Gen Neyland

February 18th, 2010
10:54 am

Huh?, Gerald, et al : Let that crap go today, okay..?

Chip : Thanks for cleaning up the mess. Sorry you have to do so…

Vandy Alum from ATL

February 18th, 2010
10:54 am

As a Vanderbilt alum I was very excited to see Rajaan sign with us. This is just terrible news, not only because Rajaan’s accomplishments were incredibly special, but because he had such promise taken from him through no fault of his own. I am sad that I will never get to see him wear the black and gold for us on Saturday’s, and more importantly, that he’ll never get the chance to walk across the stage at a school that I love so much. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, whom I know must be suffering the worst hell imaginable.

RIP Rajaan.

Halsey

February 18th, 2010
10:55 am

Why does this world have to be filled with so many pieces of garbage like the loser who killed Rajaan… :(

Technophobia

February 18th, 2010
10:55 am

It’s always a tragedy when a young person dies and is compounded when the person has a bright future and has shown character even at their young age. My condolences to all who have been affected by this tragic loss.

Gerald

February 18th, 2010
11:03 am

Halsey:

The answer to your question can be found in Genesis 2 and 3.

Russell Warnock

February 18th, 2010
11:05 am

rip bros… i was just joking and laughing with you yesterday at track practice.. and now your gone..

Henry D.

February 18th, 2010
11:05 am

Thoughts and prayers to the Bennett family.