RICHMOND -- On the last day of his life, Lincoln Plair received a small paycheck and a promotion. Then he went about doing what he always did, one of his friends said.
He attended to the business of helping.
Plair meticulously cleaned the sand boxes at the Elm Playlot in the heart of Richmond's Iron Triangle, clearing it of syringes, glass and other debris in time for the children at nearby Peres Elementary School to play there.
Then, he'd hop on his bike and travel around the Triangle, mowing lawns, often for free. When he was done with that, he'd travel home and take care of his grandfather.
"This," said Plair's boss and friend Toody Maher, "was one of the great spirits in our community."
It was that spirit that appears to have put Plair in the wrong place at the wrong time Monday. He was mowing lawns in the 600 block of Sixth Street about 3:30 p.m. when he was shot several times in the torso, Richmond Police Det. Nicole Abetkov said. The 21-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.
It was Richmond's second homicide of the year.
Maher, the founder and director of Pogo Park, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rebuilding the Elm Playlot, said Plair came to the organization just over a year ago. On Monday morning, she gave him a key to additional tool sheds at the park, a promotion signifying additional responsibility.
He accepted it happily, she said.
"In the Iron Triangle, everybody knows everybody, and everybody knew Lincoln as a peaceful and gentle man who did everything he could to stay out of harm's way," Maher said. "He had this incredible goodness and desire to give."
Abetkov said police had no new updates on the investigation. Witnesses told police more than one person approached Plair as he worked in the yard and said two to four men were spotted running from the scene, Abetkov said.
"The whole community is just a wreck," Maher said. "Words can't describe the loss the children will feel. Shooting Lincoln was like shooting a child himself. We're devastated."
Maher said a memorial gathering will take place outside the park at Eighth and Elm streets at 6 p.m. Saturday to honor Plair. She said she expects a big turnout for a man who "brought a lot of happiness to the people who came into contact with him."
The killing was the city's second in 2013, down from five at this time last year. The first homicide of 2013 was Feb. 4, when police discovered William Wheeler, 26, shot dead about 3 a.m. at Lucas Park and Playground, just a few blocks east of Monday's slaying.
Rick Hurd covers crime. Contact him in Richmond at 510-262-2728 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH.