Despite all the fishing trips and football games, former D.C. police chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. knew he was losing his battle to save streetwise Jermaine Daniel long before the 15-year-old was gunned down near his drug-ridden Northeast apartment complex last week.
"I think the streets were taking over more of him," Turner said in an interview the night of Daniel's death. "Despite everything I wanted to do, my influence was waning. If he was going to survive, he needed to get out of the environment he was living in.
"Otherwise," the veteran officer added, "it was doomed to failure."
From the moment they met in June 1988, Turner realized it would be an uphill struggle to rescue Jermaine Daniel from a neighborhood bustling with the drug trade and from the same fate of his father and brother who had been in and out of jail.
In a friendship that few street youngsters enjoyed, Turner all but adopted Daniel, taking him fishing and to football games, sending him to camp and letting him ride around the city with him in the chief's official car. Turner repeatedly told Daniel that he would "break his neck" if he caught the youngster using drugs.
But it was a rescue mission that ultimately would fail. Less than a year after they met, Daniel was arrested for selling marijuana and, the next year, again for selling cocaine.
On Wednesday, Daniel got into an argument over a girl with his 14-year-old best friend, and Daniel ended up being fatally shot in the chest. His funeral, which Turner helped to arrange, will be held Tuesday at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Northwest.
With his father and brother in prison and his mother sometimes leaving him unattended, Daniel was easily influenced by other youngsters, Turner said. Officers told him that they had seen Daniel in stolen cars, and the chief was disturbed by his appetite for high-priced apparel.
"He wanted the best clothes, he wanted the best items," Turner said. "One time he told me he didn't have boots for the snow. A friend took him to Sears, but Jermaine didn't want $39.95 boots from Sears. He wanted $129.95 boots from a store on upper Wisconsin Avenue."
Turner remembered the pain of confronting Daniel after his cocaine arrest and listening to the youth insist he had not done it. "He was in total denial," Turner recalled.
The latest sign that Daniel was slipping away into the "fast lane" came during the holidays, when the teenager skipped Christmas celebration at the Turner home for the first time since the two met.
No matter how much Turner could help, there is a limit to how effective mentors can be, according to some experts.
"Maurice Turner was a very good friend, but he was not his father," said Jeffery M. Johnson, a Washington educational consultant who wrote the book, "The Endangered Black Male, the New Bald Eagle."
Jermaine "had father hunger. Even though he saw Turner, he knew he was not his daddy," Johnson added. "The bottom line . . . is that boys need fathers . . . on a regular, daily basis. And Maurice Turner couldn't do it."
Turner said he felt he was treating the symptoms, not the root causes. No matter how often they went shopping or out to eat, the youth always returned home to the same deteriorating drug-ridden apartment complex. Turner called child protection workers, but they said they could not intervene.
"He had a hard time to begin with," Turner said. "He died senselessly, and at such a young age."
Staff writer Joel Garreau contributed to this report.