When Charles Humphrey was a freshman at Maury High School, he might have run with the wrong crowd a little bit, friends said - he didn't take school too seriously and wasn't that interested in going to college.
But by his senior year, Humphrey was the one who would step in when anyone else was starting trouble, said Jamal Giddens, who played football with Humphrey for three years. Sports, he said, had turned him around. Humphrey was captain of the football team, an All-Eastern District First Team running back and co-captain of the basketball team.
"He was getting real serious about football," said Giddens, who now plays for Liberty University. "He'd say, 'Put in a good word for me at Liberty, OK?' "
That made Sunday's news harder to accept: Humphrey, 18, was fatally shot in the Park Place neighborhood early Sunday morning. Humphrey was found dead at the intersection of 34th Street and Colonial Avenue about 1 a.m. No arrests have been made, and police are investigating the shooting.
He is the sixth football player from South Hampton Roads to be injured or killed by gunfire in the past 10 months.
"He got pointed in the right direction," said his football coach, John Quinerly. "He knew he had a life, a career ahead of him."
Friends gathered at the scene of the shooting Sunday afternoon. They put up signs and wrote with markers on a nearby tree and mailbox: "RIP Lil Charles" and "Hard 2 Live, Easy 2 Die."
At 6 feet tall and 195 pounds, Humphrey scored 10 touchdowns and led the Commodores in rushing this past season with 771 yards. He was a two-way starter for Maury, at both running back and linebacker, and was headed for St. Augustine's College, a Division II school in Raleigh, N.C., to play football this fall, Quinerly said. His death left his teammates, former teammates and the community shaken, Quinerly said.
"He was a very popular kid," Maury basketball coach Jack Baker said. "Part of that was he did what he was supposed to do. He never caused any problems."
Baker said Humphrey is the first player he has coached who has been slain in his 33 years leading the team.
In March, former Lake Taylor football standout Derrius Walton and former Salem star Kevin Whaley were shot. Walton, who was outside an Arizona nightclub, died from his injuries. Whaley, who was shot outside a Virginia Beach nightclub, survived and is recovering while on football scholarship at the University of Minnesota.
In July, former Oscar Smith standout Lonnie Andrews and former Deep Creek star Donte Newsome were both shot and killed just days apart - Newsome outside a nightclub in West Virginia and Andrews in the South Norfolk section of Chesapeake. And in September, I.C. Norcom receiver Rashawn Finney died in the hospital after being shot several times at a party in Chesapeake.
Baker said the rash of violence involving young athletes from the area has just made him more determined to reach his players.
"I don't think you can just give up on the situation, or give up on the kids. They still need you," he said. "I don't know if I can do more as a coach, but maybe I can. I don't know."
Administrators have grown concerned about gang activity at Maury after a string of fights this fall, bringing in extra security officers and once moving one of Maury's football games because of worries about gang activity.
Humphrey's death on top of the other violence that's taken place this school year is "very scary," said Maury senior Tiana Jemmott, who was standing near the makeshift memorial Sunday.
"This is the fourth person I know that's died," said Markus Nolasco, also a senior at Maury.
Humphrey "is the last person you'd think this would happen to," Jemmott said.
Humphrey was well-respected by his teammates and took his sports seriously, but he still liked to joke around, friends said. Former teammate Daniel Coleman, now a freshman at Norfolk State University, remembered a time in culinary arts class last year when he was paired with Humphrey. The two of them burned their cake, Coleman said, but served it to the class anyway and called it "rotisserie."
"Me and him just laughed about it," Coleman said. "That's why it hurt me so much. I heard, and I just dropped everything and started crying."
A memorial service is planned today at 5 p.m. at Park Place Baptist Church, Colonial Avenue and 31st Street. A candlelight vigil at the intersection of 34th Street and Colonial Avenue will follow.
Funeral arrangements aren’t complete, family members said today.