Neville Webb served a quarter-century as a prison guard in Jamaica, earning a reputation for fairness that kept him safe in the island's worst ghettoes. But a year and a half after coming to America, he was gunned down when he tried to keep vandals from throwing eggs on Halloween.
Webb, 52, a security guard, was shot in the head and chest at short range Wednesday night outside the large Mount Vernon apartment building he was guarding. He died the next night.
The circumstances made the killing "an absolute travesty and tragedy," police Commissioner David Chong said Friday. "Something as simple as egg-throwing mischief, and a man who went out to do his job ends up as a homicide victim."
The apartment building in Mount Vernon, just north of New York City, appears well-kept from the outside but Chong said there have been several arrests there in recent months.
Webb's son, Christopher, said his Jamaica-born father moved as a teenager to Kingston, the island's capital. He paid his own way through school and at age 26 became a correction officer in a government prison.
"He had a gift of helping people to help themselves," and over the years helped so many inmates "that he could walk through any part of Kingston untouched," Webb said.
"So many people in the ghettoes of Kingston respected him, loved him. Places that politicians couldn't go, lawyers, doctors ... this man could go in there and talk to anybody."
The police commissioner said Webb was outside the building at about 8:45 p.m. Wednesday when eggs began flying in at cars and people.
"He was a very conscientious security guard," Chong said. "He approached this large group of teens, maybe half a dozen to a dozen. As he started to walk toward them, he was ambushed."
Webb carried a licensed handgun but had no chance to draw it, the commissioner said. Police believe the three shots came from one gun and one shooter.
Crime in Mount Vernon, a city of about 70,000 bordering New York City, is a key issue in Tuesday's mayoral election. Mayor Ernest Davis, who is seeking a fourth term, said Friday that illegal guns and budget restrictions were part of the problem.
Christopher Webb, a City Council candidate, was sorrowful but conciliatory.
Addressing the unknown assailants and their families, he said, "We do not hate you. ... We pray for you and we know there will be a day when we face each other in court and we can hug each other."
Neville Webb is survived by his wife, parents, brothers and sisters, and four other children, his son Christopher said.