Like scores of his
classmates at Atlantic High School
, Darren Cogoni
did little to distinguish himself from his
wasn't voted most studious, most spirited or even most reliable.
But had there been a vote for the student least likely to be embroiled in controversy, former classmates and teachers say, Cogoni
would have been at the top of their list.
fired the fatal shots as the black youth drove through an open-air hallway at the Delray Full Service Center high school
after dropping off friends at a dance.
That the 23-year-old has become a symbol for all that is wrong with race relations in Delray Beach has only added to the surreal nature of the events that now swirl around the young man many say they know simply as a quiet, well-mannered guy who went out of his
way to stay out of the way of others.
'I know he's
not a racist,' LeFerrera said. 'I knew many racists in high school and he
wasn't one of them.'
...'He was working all the time,' said Marianne Burks, who has lived two doors down from Cogoni and his family on a quiet cul-de-sac in suburban Boynton Beach for six years.
The only candid photograph of Cogoni
in his senior yearbook shows him standing with Redgrave in front of a Christmas tree.
worked part-time jobs in high school repairing bicycles, according to his
application to become a Delray police officer.Shortly before graduating, he got a sales job at an Office Depot in Boca Raton.Seeking better pay and more flexible hours so he could attend classes at Palm Beach Community College, he went to work at AmTrust Bank in suburban Boca Raton.
But after working at the bank for about three years, he
felt the pull to become a law enforcement officer, according to his
was hired on March 29, 2004, went through the police academy and had been released to patrol by himself only on Feb. 3.He
was working an off-duty assignment on the night of the shooting.
was attracted to Delray Beach because of its racial diversity.
'I would be extremely proud earning the ability to serve on a force with the prestige that this department has earned, and serve a community rich in history and cultural diversity,' he
wrote on his
also pointed out that his
expertise with firearms would help him serve the city.
'With firearms being my most beloved hobby, I have a fair amount of knowledge in the care, safe operation and varieties of firearms,' he
According to state records, he
obtained a concealed-weapons permit on Feb. 18, 2003, nine months before he
applied for a job with the police department.
Police who have weighed in on the shooting express outrage that it is being portrayed as a racist incident.
...Cogoni is represented by attorney Scott Richardson, who gained fame by winning an acquittal for one of two police officers charged in the 1990 beating death of Robert Jewett, one of the most infamous cases of police brutality in West Palm Beach history.