Part of a year-long series, presented by The American and the Brown School at Washington University, on changing the narratives and outcomes of young black males in St. Louis.
I grew up without my biological father. Not having that portion of my life caused distress and anger. I was constantly getting in trouble at school and at home to get my anger out. I moved in with my grandfather when I was 4 years old because he spoiled me and I enjoyed being with him.
When I turned 12, my grandfather and I moved to University City to provide me with the chance to have a fresh start in a new neighborhood and school district. I met a remarkable, fun, and close friend, Demetri. We claimed each other as brothers. We would get in trouble together, but we always had fun.
On December 11, 2012 at around 6 p.m., Demetri and I were at my house playing with a revolver. We began playing cops and robbers with the gun, not knowing that the gun was loaded. When I pulled the trigger, assuming nothing was in the gun, it went off and the bullet hit Demetri.
I began to cry while trying to get him up. I called the police, and when they arrived I was taken to the police department for interrogation, then transported back to my house. Around midnight, two detectives returned to my house to take me into custody due to Demetri passing away.
The detectives took me to juvenile, and I was charged with involuntary manslaughter. I stayed in juvenile for three months until my court date. Then the judge sent me to the Division of Youth Services to receive treatment for my grief and loss.
I was there for four years. During that time, I was able to receive effective treatment for my grief and loss and to learn many life skills. I also was able to receive my education. I met so many positive staff and productive leaders. The staff and fellow group members trained and prepared me to become a leader for my support group. At the age of 14, I was leading older youth in the same group as me.
I met Captain Perri Johnson, who began a group at the facility for young men. Upon my release, I met with Captain Johnson and expressed my life goals. He begin connecting me with people who allowed me to live my dreams. I graduated with my high school diploma at the age of 16 and began attending St. Louis Community College, studying office information systems.
Due to my past and how police officers helped me grow from a traumatic situation, I was interested in becoming a police officer and working with juveniles. I began this journey by joining the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Explorer Program, under the supervision of Lt. Darla Gray. I was honored and selected for the leadership position as the lieutenant for our program. Lt. Gray then provided me with resources and a fabulous opportunity to be a part of the Police Cadet Program.
My first assignment was the Juvenile Detective Unit. I was able to meet Lt. Kimberly Allen and juvenile detectives who taught me so much about life, decision-making, and becoming a great police officer.
My plan now is to continue the Police Cadet Program, obtain my bachelor’s degree, and go to law school. I plan to become a police officer at the age of 21 and to retire at the age of 42. Then I will become a lawyer and work towards becoming a judge.
Today, as I look over my life and where I came from, I am proud of myself. I thank everyone who has allowed me the opportunity to grow. God has blessed me so much and given me the privilege to live life for myself and Demetri.
“Homegrown Black Males” is a partnership between HomeGrown STL at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and The St. Louis American, edited by Sean Joe, Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor and associate dean at the Brown School, and Chris King, managing editor of The American, in memory of Michael Brown.