New London teen killed Wednesday a football player with dreams of college and a career in entertainment

Lori Riley, Hartford Courant
·4 min read

Ronde Ford was a football player, a senior at New London High School who was getting mail from colleges as of last week, and an aspiring rapper, his father James Ford said Friday.

He was 17 years old. On Wednesday evening, he was fatally shot near his home in New London.

Ronde was one of James’ and his wife Jamie’s seven children, the third of six boys.

“He was a very athletic kid, always determined, he was the kind of guy who always wanted to be the best,” said James, who coaches youth football in New London. “He also wanted everybody around him to be the best. Also, that came with a bit of an attitude. A lot of good athletes have that little ego, attitude.

“His best attributes were also some of the things that would get him in a little bit of issues with coaches and school. He was very stubborn-headed but he was also very conscious of what people thought of him and what he thought of himself. He was in good shape, worked out, had his hair looking nice, all that type of stuff.”

James Ford said the family still doesn’t know what happened.

“We’re still in a holding pattern,” he said.

New London police chief Peter G. Reichard said Thursday that a teenaged victim had several gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene, which was outside 15 Grand Street. As of Friday, the police had neither identified the victim nor released further information about the incident.

Ronde was athletic and played multiple sports growing up in New London, but excelled at football and was hoping to be able to play in college. But when the pandemic hit and school went to distance learning and football was canceled last fall, James said his son struggled.

“He was hugely affected. Once March came and everything was shut down, you got the college coaches in your inbox going, ‘Oh we just need that much more video …’” James said. “He got to the point where he was like, ‘I’m not going to be able to go to school where I can play ball.’ I said, ‘We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.’ It was a lot of stress.

“He could’ve graduated in December. Credits-wise, after four years — I’ve always had my children take summer courses — he was ahead. He only needed two English classes and a geometry to graduate at the beginning of the year, but it was so hard. He was just so dejected by the fact that ‘Ah, we’re not going to play ball. I’m not going to get into a school I want to.’”

But even last week, James said, Norwich University in Vermont had corresponded with Ronde.

James said Ronde was the kind of kid who was very determined.

“You’d say, ‘We need you to go through that brick wall,’ he’s going to go through that brick wall,” James said. “Or he was going to figure out a way to put a dent in it.”

Recently, he had started rapping.

“He was a talented kid,” his father said. “Him and his group of friends were putting a lot of good material together. I would always say, ‘If you’re going to be a running back, you got to be the best running back.’ He took everything seriously.

“He had this persona. If you’re going to be a rapper these days, you’ve got to have your persona. He was one of those guys who had an Instagram persona. He made heartfelt music but had to look gangsta, you know?

“When his friends gathered outside [after his death], the biggest thing I wanted to let them know was whatever happened here, we all need to take this as a big lesson. We need to figure out what happened. We need to stick together like we always have. We can’t let this thing that happened with my son separate us.”

A GoFundMe page set up for Ford’s family has raised over $16,000 in one day.

Lori Riley can be reached at lriley@courant.com.