July 19, 2015

There was a knock on the door. It was sometime around 9 pm on a Sunday and none of us were expecting any visitors; especially at that time of night. My Aunt Ra'Shonda had spent the day with us: 8-year-old Lil' Sam, 4-year-old Vincent, 17-year-old Ziare, 14-year-old Chyna, my mother, and myself. We were all waiting on my step-father Big Sam, to get home with the projector screen to watch movies that night. It was all that he been talking about since he had brought the projector. My mother was upstairs in Vinny and Sam's room when the knock came. I was in my mama's room, probably messing in her bathroom. The details are murky; but the knock that came was clear. My Aunt was downstairs in the family room with Chyna and Sam, while Ziare was in his room with the door shut, doing who knows what. Vincent was sleep. But when the knock came, the whole house went on alert. My mama came from the boys' room still holding clothes, with the given order that, to whoever it was, she wasn't there. She had seen the car from an upstairs window, and didn't like the looks of it. So I ran downstairs only to see that Aunt Ra'Shonda had already answered. There were two people, a man and a woman, both wearing badges of some sort, and guns in holsters at their waist. They were clearly some kind of detectives. “Are you Da'Shonda?” The man asked when he had seen me coming down the steps. “We're homicide detectives here about Samuel DuBose. We're looking for Da'Shonda Reid.” Homicide detectives? Why are they here about Sam? Is he…? I quickly ran back upstairs, putting two-and-two together, that something must have happened to Sam; that something terribly bad had happened. My mama was in the boys' walk-in closet when she asked who it was. I told her they were detectives, but I couldn't bring myself to say that they were there for Sam. In that moment I didn't have to, because my mama asked, “Is it Sam?” And through tear ridden eyes, I could only nod my response. My mama quickly ran past me down the stairs to the detectives, who were now in our living room. “Da'Shonda?” they asked for clarification before proceeding. “Is it Sam, what happened?” My mama was sobbing. The sound of her cries pulled the whole house towards her. “Yes. Sam was shot and killed in an altercation with a police officer--.” The house stopped. Did he just say, police officer? “We see that he was a lot thinner than in his ID, was he ill? Or was there something going on that would make him want to commit suicide by police?” Suicide by police? “Naw he ain't do no ‘suicide by police.' If an officer shot him, I could tell you right now, he didn't do anything to deserve it.” My mama responded; angry at the implications of the question. Lil' Sam and Chyna had been listening from the top of the stairs, while I sat at the bottom of the stairs, closest to the living room. Ziare had come down from his room, and was now in the kitchen listening. “Daddy died?” Lil' Sam asked. Crying, I could only nod. I grabbed and hugged him while he cried tears in my arms. We all sighed that Vinny was asleep, but cried harder for when it was time for him to wake up—to no movie projector; to no daddy. The detectives sat and asked my mother a series of questions: when was the last time she spoke with Sam, the last time he was home, if he knew anyone nearby the area he was shot in, whose name the car was in… These sorts of questions went swirling through the air, mixing and mingling with the sounds of sobs, silences, and sniffles. Sam was gone. And though the detectives were right there telling us this, it wasn't real. We didn't believe it; couldn't believe it. Couldn't grasp the idea that the person we had been waiting on, wasn't going to show up; couldn't handle how we would tell the sleeping four-year-old that his daddy is dead, and that he never made it home with the projector screen. Couldn't understand how, so quickly, the murder of my stepfather, was being turned around on him. How he was never a victim, but an immediate suspect in his own murder. The knock on the door that changed our expectations for the night. The knock on the door that forever changed all of our lives. The knock on the door that punched us all with unbearable news. The knock on the on the door that you think, could never happen to you. The knock on the door with America's hidden truth: that when an officer kills a citizen, it is the victim who will lay accused.

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