Many Black Alexandrians are calling it “our local Trayvon Martin case.” And, they won’t rest until they get “Justice for Julian.”
The promising 22-year-old Julian Dawkins, a driver for PBS’ Newshour, was shot and killed May 22 in the 100 block of Lynhaven Drive, apparently after an argument with off-duty Arlington County Sherriff’s Deputy Craig Patterson, about a block from his aunt’s home, according to reports.
Here we go again, a senseless killing of yet another young black male after a confrontation with someone sworn to uphold the law.
How to stop this peculiar carnage? This incident is particularly disturbing for me because I have lived in Alexandria all of my life. I graduated from the same high school where Julian went, T.C. Williams “Remember the Titans” High School. I know some of Julian’s family. Some of my relatives were close to him.
By all accounts, Julian was good people. PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill remembered him as a “shy, soft-spoken colleague with velvet eyes and elaborate dreadlocks…with a bright smile for everyone.”
Julian was also known for being “a bit of a jokester,” but always positive. His last words on Facebook, according to a Facebook entry by my cousin, Dwaine Terrell, were: “I don’t care what nobody says, God is real and God is working.”
What a tragedy. The untimely death has been ruled a homicide by the city’s medical examiner, but no charges have been filed in the case. Why? If there is a homicide, someone must have committed it. Patterson, a 17-year veteran, has not been arrested but was placed on paid administrative leave. Why? Alexandria’s Commonwealth Attorney Randy Sengel, a classmate of mine at T.C. Williams, told WUSA9 that Patterson was not a flight risk nor does he appear to be a threat to society. Really?
There is no dispute that Patterson shot and killed Julian, according to authorities.
The circumstances and the timing are still in question, but it appears that the shooting did not occur at the same time as the alleged argument, according to accounts. One neighbor has said in television interviews that she heard an argument and then a man shouting, “I’ll be back!” A relative of Julian’s said that she was talking on the phone with him when she heard gunshots, but he did not answer when she asked what was happening.
In a city that has seen many of its African American citizens displaced by gentrification, this case has rallied young Black Alexandrians like no other than I can recall in recent years.
Among the many local residents who are mourning Julian are three of my cousins, Kamal Evans, 22, Jarreau Williams, 26, and Kashira Hargrove, 26. Kamal played basketball with him. Kashira is among a group of friends who plan to wear T-shirts adorned with Julian’s picture to his memorial service on May 31.
Many of Julian’s friends have taken to Facebook and Twitter to mourn their loss and to share information about what they are hearing about the case.
“He didn’t deserve to die. He wasn’t a threat to that police officer at all,” said Kashira. “We’re hurt and we want answers and we want justice because Alexandria and Arlington tend to throw things under the rug.”
Kashira added, “Some people are saying that this is our local Trayvon Martin case. They are worried that Patterson will get special treatment because he is a law enforcement officer.”
Another cousin of mine, a former D.C. homicide detective who is now a federal marshall, Alfonso Terrell, questioned not only the motivation for the shooting, but the time line as told by Patterson, according to news reports.
The whole situation reminds us all of the slaying of young Trayvon, who was walking home after buying a soft drink and Skittles when he was approached by George Zimmerman, an armed neighborhood watch member who pursued him against a police directive. He later fought and eventually shot and killed the teenager. His trial is set to begin in two weeks. The case has gained national notoriety when Zimmerman invoked the state’s stand your ground self-defense law, even though Trayvon wasn’t armed.
Not 12 hours before Julian was killed, I was sitting in a meeting with his grandfather, Robert Dawkins, planning the unveiling of an exhibit on June 22 at the Charles Hamilton Houston Center commemorating Alexandria’s African American history.
Although I spoke to Julian’s grandfather and father, they declined to comment at this time.
Julian’s friends, however, are speaking out. They showed up by the dozens May 28 for a rally outside the Alexandria courthouse. They want Patterson arrested.
Meanwhile, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, another high school classmate of mine, has asked Alexandrians to “be patient and allow the justice system to do its work.”
Alexandrians shouldn’t have to wait. Nor should Americans have to face yet another “local Trayvon Martin case” in their neighborhoods.