Eddie Perez: Mayor of Hartford
Recently, Perez took on another challenge when he appointed himself to the school board and was elected chairman. Critics say the move shows that Perez’s greatest strength may also be his greatest weakness — trying to do everything himself. But Perez considers himself an educator. Being mayor is “an exercise in empowering people.” New turf wars for an old gang leader.
A year later, the death of Lorenzo Morgan Rowe still hurts. “It’s a burdensome thing,” says the Reverend James Lane, founder and pastor of the Northend Church of Christ, who works with kids in that community. “Morgan didn’t fit the profile of a kid who dies because he made the wrong decision, hung around the wrong people. Here’s someone who did the right thing, and he was still taken out of this world. What else can we tell these kids after that?”
Lane’s son attended school with Rowe. Lane also knew one of the boys arrested in the shooting, Anthony Allen, a 17-year-old student at Weaver. When Allen was 9 years old, he had participated in a Buddy Breakfast program that Lane ran for fatherless boys — “a nice kid,” Lane recalls.
Allen was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, without parole. He is appealing. He has a 1-year-old son, born two months before Rowe’s death. Allen’s mother, Crystal Faust, who drives a school bus in a suburb, visits him in prison three times a week. Mother and son talk through a pane of glass. Allen’s life has gone the way that Perez’s might have.
Perez speaks with frustration about getting the resources in place to help the Shooters before it’s too late — to connect them to the American dream that he found among the ruins. But he isn’t about to abandon hope for Hartford. He will try to reclaim his city, one life at a time if necessary.
“If we get them at the right time,” he says, “magic happens.”