Murder of 17-year-old boxer rattles S. Philly

Naasir Westbrook (seen in family photos, above) boxed in the Junior Olympics and was a junior at Mastery Charter School. He was fatally shot Thursday night in South Philly.
Naasir Westbrook (seen in family photos, above) boxed in the Junior Olympics and was a junior at Mastery Charter School. He was fatally shot Thursday night in South Philly.
Posted: June 05, 2012

SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD Naasir Westbrook’s life revolved around three things: boxing, preparing for the SATs and pulling up to school early every morning in the Buick Regal his parents bought him, so the girls would swoon.

"He liked the girls to see him pull up in his car," Westbrook’s mother, Teauntay Gilliard, 35, said Sunday, smiling sadly as she scrolled through photos of her son, who was gunned down Thursday night on 5th Street near Watkins in South Philadelphia, blocks from his home and a few doors away from his grandmother’s house.

Gilliard and Westbrook’s other relatives are struggling to figure out why a boy who they say stayed out of trouble and dedicated his time to schoolwork and boxing met such a senseless end, with a bullet in his head.

"From his school, everyone’s calling. They let the kids go early, had a moment of silence and raised up boxing gloves for him. Does that sound like a bad kid to you?" Gilliard asked as she sat at her dining-room table, talking with family members about preparations for her son’s Monday-morning funeral.

"We literally bury our kids. We put them in the grave," the mother, who is Muslim, explained when someone dropped shovels off at her house. When she saw decorations for the tables at Westbrook’s repast that someone had fashioned out of miniature boxing gloves painted with his name in silver script, Gilliard broke down.

"It’s so hard," she said through her tears, holding one of the gloves. "They’re so nice. ... He’s my baby boy."

Police said a surveillance camera captured the shooting that left Westbrook dead, but they do not yet have any suspects. Gilliard plans to post a reward for information leading to her son’s killer, in addition to the $20,000 now offered by the city for an arrest and conviction in any homicide case.

Every day after school, Gilliard said, her son would rush to the Marian Anderson rec center at 17th and Catharine streets to box. He boxed at Joe Frazier’s gym in North Philadelphia when it was open, competed in the Junior Olympics a few years ago and traveled to Sugar Ray Leonard’s gym in Virginia to box. Even when he sparred with boxers in their 20s, Gilliard said, her son usually won.

Westbrook’s cousin, Scoop Jardine, 23, a Syracuse University basketball star now hoping to be drafted into the NBA, visited Gilliard on Sunday and reflected on his cousin’s bright future.

"Being an athlete can take you out of the neighborhood," Jardine said, adding that his cousin would have gone far in the boxing world.

Westbrook’s mother agreed.

"I know Naasir was gonna make it," she said.

Tipsters should call homicide detectives at 215-686-3334 or the police tip line at 215-686-8477.

Contact Morgan Zalot at 215-854-5928 or zalotm@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @morganzalot. Read her blog PhillyConfidential.com.

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