This is not the column I thought I'd be writing about Paul Kroll.
I thought I'd write a kind of "he did Philly proud" piece applauding Kroll, a gifted welterweight boxer, for his relentless, years-long quest to win a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic boxing team.
He missed qualifying by a lone bead of sweat but left everything he had in the ring, a contender to the end.
I thought I'd be sharing news that Kroll, at 21, was turning pro. That his cheering section — from his awesome parents and siblings, to the neighbors on his North Philly block, to the coaches and kids at Rivera Rec Center, where he trained —were already dreaming big about his future. That he was destined for bouts at the MGM Grand Arena in Vegas and Madison Square Garden in New York City, where he'd prove with every punch why he was nicknamed "the Punisher."
But instead of writing about Kroll's fight for a big title, I'm writing about his fight for release from Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. He's being held on $4 million bail on charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault, plus firearms violations and related offenses.
At a bail hearing Friday, Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Ehrlich said he needed more information before deciding whether Kroll's bail could be lowered to an amount Kroll's friends and family might scrape together. Ehrlich should get the info he needs on Sept. 16, when a grand jury will issue its investigation into what happened Aug. 20.
No one disputes that on that morning, Kroll was involved in a confrontation on a residential street in West Philly after arguing with an ex-girlfriend about money. He brought three friends with him to the confrontation — including a 15-year-old he was mentoring at Rivera Rec Center.
Really, dude? This is how you mentor a teen boy about adult relationships? By bringing him to a showdown with an ex? What was next — a trip to the Maury show?
Neighbors got involved, someone pulled a gun, others responded in kind. When the smoke cleared, 30 shell casings and three injured people were on the ground: a neighbor of Kroll's ex and two of Kroll's pals — including, sweet Jesus, the 15-year-old.
The bloodbath went down in broad daylight, on an otherwise peaceful Saturday morning when residents were coming and going to breakfast, to the grocery store, running errands.
It's a miracle no one was killed. Others haven't been as lucky when caught in crossfire.
Remember awesome dad Alsharay Ford, 25, killed when a gun battle erupted as he drove his toddler through East Germantown on July 28? And vivacious little Gabby Carter, 8, who perished on Aug. 26 of the wounds she suffered in a Camden shootout?
It's been that kind of summer.
Arrested with Kroll was his friend Cardell Hellams, 24, on the same charges. Their friend Gary Martin, 22, was charged with obstructing justice and firearms violations for allegedly trying to hide the gun used in the shooting.
On Friday, Kroll's attorney, Bill Davis, argued at the hearing before Ehrlich that Kroll's bail was over the top. Kroll was neither a threat to public safety nor a flight risk, he said.
Kroll had never once been in trouble before his arrest, said Davis, and was eager to prove at trial that he never pulled a trigger that day. He never would have risked his career for the few hundred dollars at the center of his disagreement with his ex.
"His career promises a lot more than that," said Davis. "I think it defies logic that he would act in a way that law enforcement is alleging at this point."
Assistant D.A. Sheida Ghadiri begged to differ.
"I understand that Mr. Kroll had a very promising career," she told Ehrlich, "but what happened on Aug. 20 shows what he did with that promising career."
That's when I looked over at Kroll's parents. They had declined to comment, as did Kroll's coach, Derrick Gooden, and Kroll's boxing pals at Rivera Rec Center when I visited last week. I thought of how happy they'd all been, back in January, when I profiled Kroll for this column.
Kroll said his family - including his parents, two brothers, and a sister - had been his rock.
"My family have been my biggest supporters every step of the way," Kroll told me as he talked about the money his family had cobbled together to help get him to Las Vegas, and Reno, and Miami to compete. "They love me. They're the first people I want to tell when I have good news, and they're always posting stuff about me on Instagram and Facebook. They're so proud of me."
Gooden was just as effusive.
"Paul comes from a wonderful family. They've taught him to go for what he wants, and these days, whatever he puts his mind to, he gets it," said Gooden, a retired boxer who fought 108 amateur fights and won five as a pro. "I see so many kids with talent, but they don't have the support at home. Paul has that support."
Now, he's relying on that support to get him out of a mess. It's crushing. Not just to Kroll's family but to the professional boxing community.
"We were shocked and surprised to hear about Paul," says Mike Martino, executive director of USA Boxing, which has suspended Kroll's membership, as it does for any member involved in serious violent offenses. "He was a very talented young boxer who had a bright future."
Local boxing promoter Joe Hand Jr. is heartbroken by Kroll's situation.
"It's just so disappointing," said Hand. "I'm hoping, as the legal process moves along, that maybe some good news will come out and that maybe this case isn't as bad as it sounds. Because right now, it doesn't sound good."
It feels even worse.