WAYNE Robert Ellington Sr. never missed a chance to watch his son, Wayne Jr., a guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, play ball - even if it was just on TV.
So when detectives knocked on the door of the West Mount Airy home he shared with his mother at 9:30 Sunday night - just as the Lakers' game against the Charlotte Hornets was about to tip off - to deliver the grim news that Ellington, 57, had been found in his car with a gunshot wound to the head, his mother thought they must be mistaken.
"I thought he was downstairs getting ready for his son's game," Betty Ellington, 79, said quietly last night in her living room as she struggled to make sense of her son's killing. "I'm devastated. I couldn't even believe this."
So far, Ellington Sr.'s killing is shrouded in mystery: Cops were called to Marion Street near Hansberry, in Germantown, shortly after 8 p.m. Sunday for a car accident. When they got there, they found Ellington slumped in the driver's seat of his Oldsmobile, bleeding heavily from a gunshot wound through his head, Chief Inspector Scott Small said. His car had hit two parked cars on the block before coming to rest, Small said.
Police found no ballistic evidence, except for a bullet hole on the inside of the passenger door of the sedan. Police said that based on preliminary evidence, they think the shooter aimed through the partially open driver's window and shot the man once in the head, the bullet traveling through his skull and lodging in the other door.
Small said that based on Ellington's injuries, police believe the shooting happened not far from where his car came to rest. No surveillance cameras or witnesses were found, Small said.
Ellington Sr. was taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center and underwent surgery, but was pronounced dead at 10:55 p.m., about midway through his son's game on the West Coast. The Lakers went on to beat the Hornets 105-92 - L.A.'s first win of the season.
Ellington Jr., 27, had 9 points in the game and has been averaging 7.8 in 5 games this season, his first with the Lakers. He signed with them as a free agent in September.
Ellington Sr. was his son's No. 1 fan, Betty Ellington said. The proud father's Facebook page is filled with links to stories about his son.
"It was his whole conversation, about his son playing in the NBA," Betty Ellington said. She said she and her son would often travel to watch Ellington Jr. play.
Ellington Jr. was a star basketball player in high school. At Episcopal Academy, he was the Daily News' All-City First Team in 2005 and 2006 and shared the Daily News Player of the Year Award with teammate Gerald Henderson in 2006.
He went to North Carolina and as a junior in 2009 was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player as the Tar Heels captured the National Championship.
That same year, as Ellington Sr., relatives and his son gathered for a private party at a Northern Liberties bar the night his son was drafted into the NBA by the Minnesota Timberwolves, Ellington Sr. told the Daily News that he dreamed of one day seeing his son play for the Sixers.
"That's every player's dream, isn't it?" he said that night. "You go away for college, then get the chance to come home as a pro. Northing better."
Betty Ellington said that Ellington Sr. - who worked in finance in Bensalem - also had two daughters, 32 and 28, the older of whom works in the medical field and the younger of whom attends medical school at the University of North Carolina, where her brother played college ball. He had two young granddaughters and two younger siblings - a brother who died of cancer in 2011 and a sister.
"His family loved him very dearly, and he will be missed greatly," Betty Ellington said last night as she flipped through albums of family photos in happier times.
Ellington Jr., who team officials said yesterday is taking an indefinite leave, traveled home earlier this week, his grandmother said.
He urged anyone with information in his father's shooting to contact police.
"My family and I are devastated by the news of my father's murder on Sunday night in Philadelphia. We appreciate everyone's support and ask that you respect the privacy of our family during this very difficult time," he said in a statement. "I encourage anyone with any information to come forward to help authorities solve this case."
Betty Ellington said she doesn't know why her son was in Germantown the night he was killed, or why anyone would want him dead. She, too, pleaded that anybody who saw or heard anything come forward. The block where her son was found shot is lined on both sides with rowhouses.
"If he was shot there, somebody had to hear this and see this," the distraught mother said. "[The shooter] needs to be caught, because I'm really angry and sad, and it messed my family up."
A $20,000 reward is offered by the city for information leading to an arrest and conviction in Ellington's killing, as in any city homicide. Tipsters should contact police at 215-686-3334.
- Staff writer Bob Vetrone Jr. contributed to this report.