Slayings Put Educator on Crusade for Gun Control : Activism: Pasadena City College President Jack Scott, who lost his son to a bullet and grieved with the city when three boys were gunned down on Halloween, says preoccupation with weapons is killing society.
It was a Saturday morning. Jack Scott, president of Pasadena City College, was getting dressed for the school’s homecoming festivities when he got the news that he says will haunt him forever.
On Oct. 23, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy arrived at the educator’s Altadena home and said that his son, Adam, a promising 27-year-old attorney, had been shot to death, allegedly by a friend, during a dinner party in the Wilshire district earlier that morning.
“The story doesn’t end there,” an angry Jack Scott told the Pasadena City Council last week. “An even more horrible event was to follow in Pasadena, shortly after my son’s death.”
Stephen, Reginald and Edgar.
On Halloween night in Pasadena, assailants jumped out of bushes and sprayed a group of young people walking home from a party with semiautomatic weapon fire. Stephen Coats Jr., Reginald Crawford Jr., both 14, and Edgar (Eddie) Evans, 13, were slain, and three other youths were wounded. No arrests have been made.
“What are we to do?” Scott asked the City Council. “Will it no longer be safe to walk the streets?”
In an agonizing quest to turn the death of his son and the three teen-agers into a hard lesson for others, Scott is emerging as a leader in a growing local movement for stricter gun control. He is a reluctant leader, still devastated by what his wife, Lacreta Scott, calls “the greatest sorrow of his life.”
Scott, 60, is chairman of a Pasadena subcommittee on gun control, Coalition for a Non-violent City, which formed after the Halloween slayings. After those shootings, Lacreta Scott, a 59-year-old Cerritos College English instructor, wrote letters to the mothers of the victims, saying that their grief was also hers.
Tuesday night’s council meeting was not the first time that Jack Scott has turned his grief and rage into pleas for gun control. Shortly after his son’s death, he gave several media interviews on the subject.
Scott, who was born and raised in Sweetwater, Tex., does not covet the bereaved-parent-turned-activist role. He would rather not relate the agonizing details of his son’s death over and over. His voice--usually honeyed and vibrant, the way it was when he was a preacher--is shaky when he has to talk about it. In fact, he is so pained that he cut back his work schedule because his mind invariably wanders to thoughts of his son.
But he will not fold his arms and quit.
“That’s the way Adam would be,” Scott said. “I can’t bring him back. But I can be active in the causes he believes in.”
Adam Scott’s co-workers say he was always trying to rope his new law firm into pro bono cases, including a program in which volunteer attorneys would draft living wills for people with AIDS.
The Silver Lake resident had joined the downtown Los Angeles law firm of Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May in September, after graduating from USC Law School. At Costa Mesa High School, he had won seven varsity sports letters and was student body president in 1984. Nearly 1,000 people attended his funeral at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena on Oct. 28.
Adam Scott hated guns. He had even talked to his parents about gun control, saying he favored stricter legislation.
But, for an unknown reason, at a party in Park La Brea, Adam Scott had followed the host, 26-year-old film production assistant Ethan David Dubrow, into his bedroom to look at his gun collection, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
“ ‘I don’t even think I could fire a gun in self-defense,’ ” Los Angeles police detectives quoted Adam Scott as saying to another party-goer.
Dubrow, who wanted to show off his new 12-gauge, semiautomatic shotgun, first pointed it at another guest, saying it wasn’t loaded, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Theodore A. Loewen. Then, he allegedly pointed the shotgun at Adam Scott and pulled the trigger. The young lawyer, hit once in the head, died within a few minutes.
Dubrow, the stepson of “Last Action Hero” director John McTiernan, is facing one count of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of nine years in state prison. Defense attorney Leslie Abramson could not be reached for comment. Abramson is currently representing Erik Menendez, who is on trial with his brother for first-degree murder in the slayings of their parents in the family’s Beverly Hills home.
Jack Scott isn’t saying that Dubrow, or anyone, should not be able to have a gun collection. But he is saying that his son’s slaying is an example of the deadly consequences of society’s preoccupation with guns.
“That very display and preoccupation and folly with the use of guns led to my son’s death,” he said.
In his speech to the City Council last week, Scott proposed a ban on exploding bullets, the kind designed to penetrate soft human tissue. He also urged support for the federal Brady Bill, which would require a five-day waiting period and a background check for handgun buyers.
Scott’s emerging leadership role on the issue does not surprise his colleagues. Shortly after he took over the presidency at Pasadena City College in 1987, Scott launched a $100-million master plan to meet the campus’s needs into the next century.
“He has the kind of mind that can grasp the overall essentials of a problem and cut through to what’s really needed,” said Grover Goyne, the college’s dean of institutional advancement. “I’ve seen him listen to lengthy debates and discussions, and when it’s over, he has a way of, in a few sentences, going to the sense of a problem.”
Scott, the son of a tractor salesman and homemaker, was briefly a minister in the Church of Christ before deciding on education as a career. He earned a master’s degree in divinity from Yale University in 1962, and master’s degree and doctorate in history from Claremont Graduate School in 1967 and 1970.
Adam Scott was the youngest of five children. He called his father the week of his death to say that his firm’s partners had praised a legal brief he wrote and that he would see his family in church on Sunday.
Three weeks earlier, Adam Scott had accompanied his father, mother, a brother and a sister to a family reunion in Sweetwater, about 250 miles west of Dallas. Jack Scott took his family by his old house, high school and church, which was celebrating its 100th anniversary.
“It was kind of like ‘Roots,’ you know,” Scott recalled.
Now, the family’s life is uprooted, and Scott is trying, wearily, to carry on in his son’s name. The cause at hand stirs him into a finger-pointing rage.
“Maybe, just maybe, this is a time when the good citizens of Pasadena can rise up and say, ‘We’re going to put a stop to this. We can’t go on like this. . . . It’s killing our cities.’ ”