CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is investigating a homicide in the University City area of Charlotte that claimed the life of a beloved, off-the-field football coach for Mallard Creek High School.
At 9:52 p.m. Friday, CMPD officers responded to reports of an injured man near 12000 Deaton Hill Drive, which is located near Highland Creek. Officers arrived to find the victim, who was later identified as 56-year-old Ralph Pierre Hammond, had suffered from multiple gunshot wounds. Medic pronounced Hammond dead at the scene.
"Ralph was not a hired coach but did just as much as any of them," Bishop Frederick Brown, a close friend said Hammond, told WCNC Charlotte. "He was more the off-the-field coach, helping with player development, weight training, clothing, food and a huge mentor to so many of our kids. He's been there since the opening of the school in 2007."
Brown said Hammond was an asset to the community.
"Ralph was always energetic, always laughing, always smiling," Brown shared. "He was the type of guy that everyone would want to be around."
His dedication to the students inspired many.
"Everything you can imagine from buying cleats, to taking kids on college visits, Ralph was 'Mr. Everything' to Mallard Creek," Brown said.
He said it was strange for Hammond not to be at the football field on a Friday night.
"You never went to practice and didn’t see Ralph," Brown explained. "Hours before the game, he is there. Hours after the game, he is there. In the weight room, he is there. At the garage where he took his last breath, he’s always been there."
Hammond had turned that garage into a workout room over a decade ago.
"Anyone who knew Mallard Creek knew about big Ralph and what he did for the kids," Quentin Brown, another close friend, said. "As you can see on the walls, these are photos of players who have lifted with the programs. Some are in the pros, some are in the CFL and lots of college graduates."
His gym was a safe haven for many.
"There are not a lot of people who would genuinely open their own home on a weekly basis and Saturday morning to a bunch of kids and at no costs," Quentin Brown said. "That was the type of guy he was."
Quentin Brown vowed to continue the workout program in Ralph’s honor.
Bishop's son Joshua is one of those students.
"Seeing him at the bottom of the hill, or at the gate motivating you to get ready for the game and to have a good day ... people just looked forward to seeing him," Joshua Brown said. "To see somebody that invested in the program, that invested in us ... it just motivated us to want to be better."
Loved ones are struggling to cope with this loss.
"You didn’t just take his life, but you took life away from so many student-athletes who often had no one but Ralph," Bishop Brown said. "I can't imagine anyone wanting to do harm to Ralph."
CMS released the following statement:
“Coach Ralph was a beloved part of the Mallard Creek High School community as a volunteer coach. Our volunteer coaches dedicate their valuable time and resources to working with student athletes and we cannot express the depth of our gratitude for the work they do. Coach Ralph mentored many student athletes and his legacy will be long-lasting in the Creek community. Our thoughts are with his loved ones during this difficult time.”
"His leadership and the relationships that he built with students will be greatly felt for a long time, said CMS Athletics Director, Ericia Turner. "It's not just about the X's and O's, it's about the relationships. Sometimes these are the only fathers and mothers these kids will be attached to. And they are very influential in their lives helping them get to the next level. Not necessarily to play sports on the next level, but to encourage them and to provide those opportunities for our students."
A prayer vigil and balloon release were held Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Mallard Creek High School football stadium at 3625 Johnston Oehler in Charlotte. It was open to the public, and people were encouraged to bring a white-, gold-, navy- or cardinal-colored balloon to release.
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