Standing Thursday afternoon on Thomason Avenue after a police standoff a block away, Arielle Ewing recalled how happy her friend Velencia Compton seemed Dec. 18 as she and Leo DeAndre Scott celebrated their son’s third birthday.
That 3-year-old was left an orphan Thursday morning as Scott, wanted for fatally shooting Compton on Jan. 26 in Port Royal, S.C., took his own life when Columbus police cornered him in an apartment off 54th Street, near where Ewing stood. Two women police found in the apartment later were charged with harboring Scott.
“You never thought something like this would happen, because we all just chilled at the birthday party, December the 18th,” she said. “All was cool and we were all chillin’, and to find something like this happened, it’s just shocking. We never knew Leo was jealous like this, never knew he would do something like this, ever, in life.”
Friends and family celebrated little Jayden’s birthday at the city ice rink by the Columbus Civic Center, she said. The couple appeared to be getting along well.
Their relationship must have deteriorated rapidly after Compton, who was in the Navy, returned to Port Royal with the son she called “Peanut.” Ewing said Compton, a Columbus native and Carver High School graduate whom she’d known since she was 11, was moving on to a better life, and Scott was not.
Port Royal Detective Andre Massey told the Beaufort Gazette that when Scott came to Compton’s apartment at 21 Battery Lane the night of Jan. 26, he brought a bouquet of roses, perhaps hoping he and Compton would reconcile. Instead they got into an argument authorities believe ended in the shooting.
Port Royal police called to the apartment around 9 p.m. found Compton with a gunshot wound to the head.
Scott took her car and their son and drove back to Columbus. Here he dropped Jayden off at a relative’s house and abandoned Compton’s car in the lot of the 4701 Buena Vista Road Wal-Mart.
Police had been searching for him since, believing he was aided by friends here, where Scott once lived with his parents at 4596 Steam Mill Road. Ewing said Scott once attended Kendrick High School, but she believed he dropped out.
“He just was all cool,” Ewing said. “He used to take us to games, all the Shaw games. When he got into high school, he introduced us to that type of lifestyle, going to basketball games, going to midnight games. It just was cool.”
The search for Scott ended about 9:30 a.m. Thursday as police acting on a tip went to Apartment H at Lemon Tree Apartments on 54th Street.
“They knocked on the door,” Police Chief Ricky Boren said of the detectives. “Two individuals came to the door, both females. Detectives took them out of the apartment.”
Police then showed Scott’s photo to one of the women, who confirmed Scott was inside the apartment, Boren said.
Later identified as Rachael Banks, 22, and Kimberly Gosa, 24, the women were taken to the Columbus Public Safety Center, where police charged them with hindering the apprehension of a criminal and misdemeanor marijuana offenses, detectives said. They were being held without bond Thursday night.
Mandy Guthrie, who lives within sight of the apartments, watched the scene play out from her back porch. She said the officers took the women from the apartment, putting a bullet-proof vest on one of them.
“Detectives went back up, knocked on the door and heard a single gunshot,” Boren said. “We do not believe he fired on officers.”
After the gunshot, an officer turned to Guthrie and told her to go inside her home, she said. The SWAT team arrived shortly afterward.
“The policeman kept hollering his name -- Leon Scott. That’s what they were hollering,” Guthrie said.
Tyler Guthrie, Mandy Guthrie’s son, saw SWAT officers approach the apartment’s door. They peeked through a window before bursting inside, he said.
Boren said they found Scott’s body in an upstairs bedroom. Coroner Bill Thrower said Scott, 25, was pronounced dead at 12:12 p.m. An autopsy will be performed on the body in Atlanta, Thrower said.
Residents within a mile of the apartments received a recorded message about the incident, authorities said. One woman said the message told her that a murder suspect was in the area and that people should stay indoors.
Lemon Tree Apartments is a six-building complex off 54th Street in north Columbus, according to LoopNet, a property marketing site. Built in 1981, The multifamily development has a total of 20 units, including duplexes and townhomes.
Neighbors filled the streets around the complex on Thursday, riveted by the police action. People who knew Scott also gathered on the roadsides. Some began to sob as police removed Scott’s body.
It just so happened that as police closed in on Scott here in Columbus, police in Port Royal were with a film crew from “America’s Most Wanted,” shooting a spot about the fugitive, the Beaufort Gazette reported. Massey told the newspaper he wished Scott had surrendered peacefully: “I would never wish death on anybody.”
Muscogee County court records showed Scott has had run-ins with the law before. He had a pending drug charge his Columbus attorney Stacey Jackson said had yet to be resolved. Scott and three other people were charged in that case after a police raid on a residence Dec. 16, 2010, according to court records.
Remembering how happy Scott, Compton and their little boy appeared at the ice rink back in December, Ewing said “not in a million years” could she have imagined the events to come.
“We just chilled December the 18th, all of us, all of us,” she said. “Even Velencia, in a circle, we just chilled at the Columbus skating rink. Velencia and Peanut were going around the ice rink, just playing. He was so happy, opening up his gifts. Leo’s mama was there. Leo’s daddy was there. It was just a beautiful moment.”
Ewing began to cry.
“It’s just so sad,” she said of Scott,” to know that he would do something like this, and so selfish, that he would just take the child’s mother away from Peanut, for no reason. I’m clueless. I want to know why why he did it.”
The 3-year-old is with his mother’s family now, she said.
“It will never be the same anymore,” she said of his life. “It’s gone after a blink of an eye. Peanut will never go back to his normal life now, never again.”
Staff writer Alan Riquelmy contributed to this story, as did Mike Haskey, Tony Adams and Jim Mustian