Kwame El-Amin, a father of three, was looking forward to finally being able to share a home with his fiancée. They planned to get married at the end of this year.
He opened doors for her, wrote lengthy letters to her and went on several vacations with the love of his life on his arm. El-Amin wasn't romantic, according to relatives, but he was full of love. He attended his sons' (Tarik, 21, and Jamaal, 16) sporting events, and would take his 3-year-old daughter Jameelah on long trips to the park.
"Kwame treated people who were going through life's troubles with the same respect he gave those who had achieved 'success,'" said Claudia Ellis, El-Amin's fiancée. "He truly counted the character of the person more than anything else."
On Father's Day, at 1:05 p.m., in response to a text message from Ellis, he wrote: "I love you. You are one of the best things that ever happened to me and I'm so blessed to have you in my life."
Hours later, El-Amin and four others had been shot at Douglass Park during the annual Dirt Bowl League, a basketball tournament that has been played in the park since the early 1970s.
Relatives of El-Amin are scheduled to give a statement at 9 a.m. Wednesday to ask for the public's help in seeking information regarding the shooting.
El-Amin, 42, died at 8:44 p.m. Thursday at UK Hospital. His death was the city's 10th homicide of the year.
As of Tuesday afternoon, police had limited information about the shooting and no descriptions of possible suspects. No arrests have been made.
But the shooting at Douglass Park, 726 Georgetown Street, has prompted a discussion on whether the Dirt Bowl should remain in the park. It was moved last weekend to the Dunbar Community Center because the lights at Douglass were not working.
During a meeting Tuesday, about 35 city officials, Dirt Bowl organizers and people from the community gathered at the center to talk about the basketball tournament and the shooting. Most said safety was the biggest concern and repeated that the park should be policed by citizens and those using the park, and not only by police officers.
Tim Newsome, a coach for some of the Dirt Bowl teams, suggested that city officials take away the weekend games this summer, but should play the culminating Super Sunday event in mid-July at Douglass Park to see how the community responds. His suggestion was supported by several people in the audience, including Donna J. Brooks, whose house faces the Douglass Park playground.
She said her friends and relatives are afraid to visit because of the recent violence. Brooks, who has lived near the park for 12 years, said she doesn't want to see the Dirt Bowl go away, but she said something has to change to ensure the safety of the community.
Retired Lexington police Officer John Washington, son of Herb Washington, who created the Dirt Bowl, said his father tried to give young folks a chance to play ball. He said he is afraid that if the Dirt Bowl leaves Douglass Park, the park will never get it back.
"Without the Dirt Bowl, some of our youth will be really lost," Washington said.
The rest of this week's Dirt Bowl games will be played at the Dunbar Community Center, said Geoff Reed, commissioner of general services, which overseas parks and recreation. Moving forward, he said, the city would have to consider the significance, importance and safety of the Dirt Bowl at Douglass Park.
"There are a lot of factors weighing in on how we go forward, and I think the best thing to do is take our time, get as much input as we can, consult with police and reach the best decision I can," Reed said. "I know it won't make everybody happy and people will have a lot of different opinions, but first and foremost we have to protect kids."
Most at Tuesday's meeting said they couldn't understand how no one saw what happened at the park during the shooting.
Over the weekend, El-Amin's family laid him to rest at Haven Cemetery and remembered him at three different celebrations as a man who had a sense of humor with a genuine laugh, a big heart and generous soul.
"Kwame was the protector and the provider — he was protective of his sisters and he showed up to mow grass, buy groceries, or fill up our gas tanks without being asked," said El-Amin's sister, Laila El-Amin, recalling what was said by nephews during Sunday's memorial service. "As the only uncle, he was the life of the party. He made sure that he attended all sports activities, he took them to the park, took them out to eat, and especially made sure that his nephews got life lessons about how to be a man."
Growing up, Kwame was a comedian. He made jokes about his sisters that "caused many of his sisters to try to reach out and hurt him in their frustration," said Aisha El-Amin. His quickness usually allowed him to get away before his jokes resulted in wounds.
El-Amin traveled the states, enjoying reggae music and reading books. He was proud of his sisters — five graduated from the University of Kentucky, and three became teachers.
He owned El-Amin's Eats and Treats food truck and at times employed his sons and nephews.
Since the shooting, a GoFundMe page that was set up to help pay for funeral and medical expenses has reached over $8,000. The group Bikers Against Violence raised more than $1,200 over the weekend to help with expenses.
Family members said El-Amin will be missed for his presence and grace.
"He was a good man and father that looked out for the community in a positive way," son Tarik said.