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Slain U.S. Grant grad defied the odds, couldn't escape gun violence

Anthony Hartfield Jr., who graduated from U.S. Grant High School last year, was a role model to younger students and a leader on the school's basketball team. He was shot to death Monday after someone broke in to his father's house.
BY BRYAN DEAN Published: January 19, 2013

Anthony Hartfield Jr. did everything an inner-city youth is supposed to do.

He stayed in school. He said no to drugs. He got into college.

It wasn't enough to keep Hartfield from becoming a casualty of the inner-city gun violence that ends so many young lives. He was gunned down about 3:20 a.m. Monday when someone kicked in the door of his father's home in northeast Oklahoma City and started firing.

His death devastated many who knew him, from his friends and family to teachers and staff at U.S. Grant High School, where Hartfield was a role model they could hold up for other students to show them what was possible if they applied themselves.

Beating the odds

The dropout rate at U.S. Grant is the highest in the Oklahoma City school district at 9.5 percent. Gangs and drugs are a constant temptation. So are more simple motivations like needing to eat, said Robert Barger, a teacher at the school and Hartfield's former basketball coach.

“Sometimes we give them boxes of food just to eat over the weekend,” Barger said of his students. “I had a kid a few years ago who couldn't afford shoes for track. They can't always afford T-shirts for practice.”

Barger said one of the reasons he likes coaching is that athletes are more likely to stay away from drugs, gangs and many of the other choices that lead students to drop out.

That held true for Hartfield, who graduated last year.

Family members said Hartfield learned to be a leader early in life. He was the oldest of three children.

His parents split up when he was young, and he lived with his mother in Minnesota, while his father was in Oklahoma City.

“He was always the big brother,” said his uncle, Aundaray Guess. “He made sure he watched over his family, that no harm came to them.”

Guess, who lived in Minnesota at the time and now lives in New York City, said he tried to be a role model for Hartfield and his siblings.

“I wanted to make sure they got to experience what other kids experienced,” Guess said. “I would take them out to movies, putt-putt golf, whatever.”

Hartfield was determined even at a young age. Some members of his extended family had drug and alcohol problems, and he grew up seeing the destruction that could cause, Guess said.

“He didn't want that to happen to him,” Guess said. “He knew what he wanted to do. He always talked about basketball. I know it was a release for him. I know it helped him not get caught up in things going on around him.”

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