Mom of tot slain in hit-run seeks answers
Its been three weeks since a driver ran down Dominique Lockwoods youngest son, and she said shes still facing many unanswered questions.
INITIALLY, DESPITE the agonizing tragedy she was shouldering, Dominique Lockwood bore empathy for the driver who ended her youngest son's life.
"Before, I felt bad for her, too," she told the Daily News last week. "I said, 'Oh, I can't imagine how this lady must feel.' "
Abdul Latif Wilson - a bright, energetic 4-year-old whose mom said helped hold his family together - was run down April 13 by a Ford Edge after he darted into a street near his Kingsessing home from between two parked cars.
Surveillance footage from a nearby Chinese restaurant shows that the SUV barely slowed before speeding away from his crumpled body.
The next day, police sources told the Daily News that an attorney for a 27-year-old woman connected to the SUV lead them to the vehicle, which was parked in a garage underneath LOVE Park.
That unidentified woman has not been brought in for questioning in the case, and no warrant has been issued for her arrest, a police spokesman said last night.
But what Lockwood said she finds most painful is that neither that woman nor her attorney have reached out to the victim's grieving family.
And in the three weeks since her son's death, Lockwood's empathy has hardened into something closer to frustration.
"As a mother, I would just want her to be a woman, to woman up," she said, noting that the accident wasn't entirely the driver's fault. "I just want her to come and apologize, to show her mercy.
"It's not going to bring him back, but it's something she should have done."
The single mother is tired of being left in the dark, she said. She wants answers.
An active case
Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman, said that the probe into the death of Latif - the boy's family refers to him by his middle name - is ongoing.
"The investigation doesn't stop just because we've secured the car or identified a person involved," he told the Daily News. "We're still investigating components that are necessary in order to prosecute whoever is responsible."
Stanford said his heart goes out to Latif's family and that he understands their frustration in the investigation's seeming lack of progress.
But, he said, the case is still "very much active," and the department has their best interests at heart.
"The most important thing for this boy's family is having someone we can convict," he said. "We're working closely with the district attorney, and investigators are moving forward with the case."
Currently, that means gathering enough evidence for an arrest warrant. Without one, police can't compel their person of interest to come in for questioning.
"Once we have a warrant approved, we're not going to sit and wait for someone to turn themselves in," Stanford said. "The perception is that we have a warrant signed and are sitting on it. That's not how this works."
Police have declined to identify the female person of interest at the center of the case.
Her attorney, the one who initiated contact with investigators, is Michael Diamondstein, a Center City-based criminal-defense lawyer. He was cast into the public eye last year as the legal counsel for Ray Rice during the former Baltimore running back's domestic-abuse trial in Atlantic City.
Diamondstein declined to discuss the hit-and-run case with a Daily News reporter last week.
In gathering their evidence, police learned that the SUV involved was rented through Enterprise Rent-A-Car, sources said.
Laura Bryant, a spokeswoman for the rental agency, said "customer privacy concerns" prevented her from identifying who rented the vehicle and referred additional questions to police.
A life ruined
Lockwood remembers every detail of April 13. Even as the sun was setting on her home, on Litchfield Street near 57th, the weather was unseasonably warm. She knows the exact temperature by heart: 78 degrees.
It's hard not to dwell on the minutiae from the worst day of your life.
"My whole life is ruined, my plans for my family, everything is gone," she said. "I don't know what to do. Some days, I can't do anything."
The last time she saw Latif was just before 6:30 p.m., as he was playing on the sidewalk with his two older brothers, Semaj, 8, and Everett, 5.
She brought him inside, worried that he was so close to the street, which she had told him to avoid. He had protested, but his mom stood firm. She told him that, if he wanted to, he could stand by the door and talk to his brothers through its screen.
Not long after pulling her youngest into the house, Lockwood got a call from her neighbor: "Somebody hit your son."
She ran outside, her mind emptied by panic and confusion, and headed toward the growing crowd at the end of her block.
At its center, she found Latif. Somehow, he had slipped back outside to join his brothers.
A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure, his favorite toy, lay feet from where he had dropped it.
Medics took the grievously injured boy to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he died about 30 minutes later.
That weekend, a memorial service was held for Latif at the Greater Bible Way Temple in West Philly.
Burying her son did little to stem Lockwood's grief. If anything, it's been amplified.
"This is a pain in my heart that I will never get over," she said.
"She took our baby from us."
Dealing with the pain
The methodical pace being taken by police in Latif's case is common, according to a retired officer who handled similar cases.
"It's easy to connect a vehicle to a hit-and-run, but placing someone behind the wheel can be a much different story," said Stephen Guckin, a former investigator with the Police Department's Accident Investigation Division.
Guckin handled his fair share of hit-and-run cases while at AID, including one that he said took about a month-and-a-half to get enough evidence for an arrest warrant.
In his opinion, therefore, the three weeks that have gone by in Latif's case don't stand out as unusual.
"You want to make sure you've dotted all your i's and crossed all your t's before you bring anyone in," he said, noting that, in some instances, throwing a lawyer into the mix can delay things even further.
That provides little solace to Lockwood and her family as they struggle to make sense of their loss.
She credits her older sons as being her "backbone" during this tough time - Semaj likes to remind her that they're "still a team," she said.
But even with their support, Lockwood is struggling. She's left her house in Kingsessing - she can't stand to see the street where a driver struck Latif and sped away.
"When you do something like that, you don't just ruin the life of the person you hit," she said through her tears.
"I feel like I'll never be my normal self again."
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Latif Wilson's family has set up a memorial fund for his mother and siblings. To donate, visit gofundme.com/JusticeForLatif.