On a sunny Monday afternoon, Labar Brown stepped out of his home to get ice cream for his family. The kids, Miracle, age 6, and Cardarylo, age 5, usually tagged along with the 25-year-old. This time, his wife, Latoya, told him to leave the kids at home.
Around 5:30 p.m. the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office received a report of multiple shots fired on Tiki Lane, a short street with a line of brown quadplex apartments in the Enchanted Village off Kenmore Road. When the deputies arrived, they found Labar shot dead in his car in the parking spaces outside one of the apartments.
Lavon Brown, his mother, heard of the shooting from her sister. “When I got there, I saw his car,” she said. “They had a sheet over it.”
When she tried to push past the yellow tape, an officer blocked her path and told her she would have to wait for an investigator to visit her.
“I knew he was dead,” Lavon told the IN in a soft voice, almost a whisper. “I began to cry, but all we could do was wait for the investigators.”
“When that happens, it’s a sickening feeling that goes through you,” said Angela Lindsey, who listened as Lavon told her story.
Angela also knows that hollow feeling; the searing pain that rips at a mother’s soul when she hears her child has suffered a violent death. Her daughter, Catherine Angelica Lindsey, was killed in February 2011. The 22-year-old who worked at a local thrift store left behind two children. Her boyfriend stands trial in early 2012 for the murder.
Across the table from Angela and Lavon sat Rosa “Mama Rose” Dukes dressed in black and fighting back the tears. Her son, Brock, was killed in May 2011 on Diego Circle. He was found in a driveway with a gunshot wound to the head.
While suspects have been arrested in the deaths of Labar and Angelica, Brock’s killer is still unknown, which adds to the pain.
“It hurts so bad because people don’t want to tell nothing,” said Mama Rose. “What if it was your child lying out there? You would want somebody to tell you what happened to your child.” Her voice got louder with each sentence. “It don’t feel good for a mother to come and see her child lying there, can’t move. Somebody took the life of my child for nothing.”
Escambia County is a violent place. Though the population is less than 300,000, murders happen quite frequently.
Only five Florida counties had higher homicide rates in 2011 than Escambia County’s 5.35 murders per 100,000 population, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. As of Christmas Day, Escambia County has had 22 homicides. The last one was Alfred Watson, 28, whose body was found Dec. 17 near Catholic High School in West Pensacola.
With murders happening nearly every other week, Pensacola could be becoming complacent about them. Brown, Lindsey, Johnson and Watson are one-day headlines. Statistics to most—without faces, without families. The homicides become blurred memories. The details quickly fade to the background.
Not for these mothers.
They want to see the violence end. These women don’t want other mothers to experience the pain of losing a child. They have banded together with a dozen or so other mothers and fathers to form PAIN—Parents Against Injustice & Negligence.
“We wanted to name our group PAIN because we need to put a face on this violence,” said Lisa Wiggins, director of the Change Starts Now International Ministries and co-founder of the mothers’ group. Wiggins lost a brother and sister to violence. She is the one who gathered the mothers for the IN interview in her offices, a little three-room, brown building off of W Street, near Truman Arms and Diego Circle.
“We’re fresh into it,” said Wiggins. “We don’t have all the details, such as mission statement, core values and programs, but one thing we do have to start with is we have to deal with the ladies’ hearts and minds before we can push into real advocacy in the community.”
Mothers have been effective agents for change in other parts of the world. It was two women, Betty Williams, a Protestant, and Mairead Corrigan, a Catholic, who founded the Northern Ireland Peace Movement. The mothers organized the peace demonstrations that brought together Roman Catholics and Protestants, protesting violence by British soldiers, Irish Republican Army and Protestant extremists. They were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976.
Leymah Roberta Gbowee was awarded the same honor last year for her work in Liberia. In 2002, she organized Christian and Muslim women to pressure both factions for peace in the Second Liberian Civil War. Gbowee and her fellow mothers were credited with bringing an end to that war.
In Newport, Rhode Island, Patricia L. Harris founded Mothers Against Violence, Inc., following the death of her son Eric Antonio Matthews in 2001. Harris had already lost a stepdaughter to gun violence. Both children were killed before age 24. Other Mothers Against Violence chapters have sprung up across the country since then.
“There’s nothing like a mother’s love for her children,” said Wiggins. That love can accomplish the impossible, maybe even in Escambia County. These mothers are determined to somehow turn their sorrow and pain into positives.
Tomorrow Never Came
Angela Lindsey still finds herself waiting for Angelica to walk into her house. Something she did every day until her death.
“When I came home from work,” said Angela, “she would be at my house a few minutes after four. We sat there and talked.”
When she last saw her daughter, Angelica appeared upset. The two made plans to go shopping together over the weekend.
“I called her to make sure she made it home safe,” the mother said, “because I had this bad feeling that something was going to happen between her and her boyfriend.”
Angelica said she was fine, but her mother could tell by her voice something was wrong. The daughter told her mother she would be over to the house the next day, like she always was.
“Tomorrow never came,” said Angela, holding back tears. “I came home that Thursday. It was a few minutes after four, as usual. I sat watching TV and noticed that she hadn’t come to the house. So I called her cell phone and her boyfriend answered.”
The boyfriend said Angelica had ran out of the house and left her phone.
“You ain’t worried about her?” the mother asked the boyfriend. He said no.
“So I kept calling, kept calling,” she said. “He would answer the phone. Then all sudden he started sending her phone to voicemail.”
She sent Angelica’s brothers and sisters to her house. “I said look in the closets, look under the beds,” she told the IN. “I said look everywhere for your sister because it’s not like your sister not to come home. She had two babies, one was 13 months old, the other one was three.”
The siblings went out and didn’t find her. The mother didn’t call the police because she thought her daughter needed to be missing at least 24 hours before reporting a Missing Person.
At 6:30 a.m. the next day, Angela texted her daughter’s cell phone: “Angelica, if you don’t call me, I’m going to call the police on you.”
Two minutes later, a text message came through, appearing to come from Angelica. “Whoever this is Angelica is in Mobile, Ala. dead.”
“I started screaming because I knew the message was true,” said the mother, “but I knew she wasn’t in Mobile, Ala. [patting the table] I knew she was right here in Pensacola.”
Angela immediately called law enforcement, then her family. An Escambia deputy met her at Twin Oaks Villas Apartments, off New Warrington Road, where her daughter lived. She filed a Missing Person report. The deputy told her the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office would issue an Amber Alert because Angelica had a low IQ. It would be the following Tuesday before the sheriff’s office would follow up with her.
That weekend she, her kids and co-workers searched the wooded area near Twin Oaks. They spotted an area behind the apartment where it appeared someone had tried to dig a hole but the soil was too hard to dig deep. They broadened their search.
“We were digging through the shrubs, the woods; jumping in dumpsters, walking in the rain looking for her,” said Angela. “My son-in-law jumped down into this ditch, little did he know that he was standing right next to her.”
The family and friends passed out flyers. People called saying they just saw her get off a bus. They chased down every lead, but none were Angelica.
On Tuesday, the sheriff’s office called to say the file had just come across their desk. The next morning, the search team found a badly decomposed body in the ditch near Twin Oaks Villas Apartments
It wasn’t law enforcement who told her that they had found her daughter. It was a co-worker. When she got to the wooded area where the body was found, there was yellow tape everywhere. Angela remembers somebody telling her it didn’t look good.
The detective came to the house that night. “I have some bad news,” he said. “It’s her. We checked her fingerprints.”
“They didn’t have to tell me,” she said through her tears. “I already knew that it was her.”
The day before Angelica’s funeral, the sheriff’s office arrested the boyfriend and charged him with second degree murder.
Rosa Dukes also remembers clearly the last time she saw her son Brock alive.
“That night my son was at home with me,” Mama Rose said softly, her words measured. He had come into the house.
“Hey, Rosie, where’s my meal?” Brock shouted.
“Over here, boy.”
“If you don’t have my meal, I’m gonna have to put my belt on you.”
“Boy, be quiet.”
Rosa told the IN, “That’s the kind of relationship we had. We began to laugh.”
They spent the evening teasing each other, laughing and talking. Then the phone rang. At first no one said anything on the other end.
“He got grunchy with them,” she remembered. “Then they said something. He said, ‘Who?’ They must have said something else. Then [Brock] said, ‘Oh, hey man. I hadn’t heard from you in a long time.’”
Brock left the house. Rosa drifted back to sleep, only to have family shake her awake. “Wake up, wake up, Mama Rose. Somebody done shot Brock.”
When she got to Diego Circle, the area was lit up like Christmas. “All I could see was police cars and yellow tape,” she said. “I jumped out of the truck and I began to run. I ran, I ran and I ran.”
Mama Rose ducked under the tape and slipped past the deputy. When she saw her son’s body, she fell to the ground.
“I started praying,” she said. “I asked God to help me, to save my child, but my son wasn’t moving. There was no ambulance. My son wasn’t covered up or nothing.”
She passed out. Her blood pressure had skyrocketed and she had to be taken to the hospital.
“I tell you, I can still remember that like it just happened,” Rosa said. “I cry a lot. I cry a lot, but I pray. God dries my tears and gives me comfort.”
Two weeks after Brock Johnson’s murder, Sheriff David Morgan held a town hall meeting in the cafeteria of Montclair Elementary School, which is across the street from Diego Circle. Sheriff Morgan’s investigators had identified whom they thought were responsible for Brock’s death, but they had become frustrated because the people in the neighborhood had been reluctant to talk with law enforcement.
Sheriff Morgan and his team left that night still frustrated. No one came forward.
Mama Rose still has hope that witnesses will do so. She knows that some cases take longer than others.
“I’m just waiting, waiting for justice,” she said. “A part of me is gone. I’ll never ever be the same.”
An Unforgettable Pain
PAIN sprang from a neighborhood walk that Lisa Wiggins helped organize for Dr. Janice Crenshaw, minister, author and wife of Bishop John Crenshaw of New Life Christian Fellowship Church in Pensacola. The walk was on Dec. 1 in the Montclair community.
“We walked most of the neighborhood and visited Broderick’s memorial,” said Lisa. “That was when I first met Ms. Lavon. I already knew Miss Rosa and Cindy.”
Cindy is Cindy Martin, mother of Matthew Cox, who was gunned down last July. Cox, 19, was killed outside a home on Deauvillé Way in the Montclair area. An unidentified black man walked up to Cox and another person around 11:30 p.m. on a Friday night, held a gun to them and demanded money. Cox was then shot.
The mothers began to click at the walk, realizing their common bond. The next day, they were guests on a radio show on WRNE 980AM where they talked about the violence in Escambia County.
“Those mothers did an excellent job on the radio show,” said Wiggins. “God was just touching my heart saying we’ve got to do something with this. People have got to put a face with this pain. If we sit down and don’t do anything then we’re just as much at fault as they are.”
Wiggins and the mothers started meeting the very next day, Monday, Dec. 3.
“The first meeting we had about 11 people,” she said. “Five were mothers who had lost children.”
Wiggins felt she belonged because her sibling’s deaths. “I stand in the gap for my mother because my brother and sister were killed by gunfire,” she explained.
She struggled with finding a meaningful name for the new group. When she talked with her mother about what she was starting, she said, “Baby, you help those women as much as you can, but I tell you, baby, that’s a pain you’ll never forget.”
Wiggins told the IN. “When she said pain, it kept sticking with me. Pain, pain, pain. I came up with Parents Against Injustice & Negligence.”
She wanted the group to include fathers, too.
“There’s nothing like a mother’s love for her children, but there are fathers out there hurting. And we want them to get involved, too.”
Wiggins sees PAIN’s purpose as being threefold:
1) Be a support group for parents who have lost their children through violent acts.
2) Be a community advocacy group talking to political leaders about the violence in the community.
3) Be a group that offers solutions to eradicate the violence in Escambia County.
The group has met three times. “Every week we add more mothers,” said Wiggins. “We are up to 10 mothers now, the last time I looked.”
Angela Lindsey recently made a visit to the mother of Alfred Watson, after his body was found in the woods.
“I wanted his mother to know that we know her pain,” said Angela. “If she wants somebody to talk to, there’s a group of ladies that meet on Mondays. Just give me a call and I will put you in touch with them.”
Wiggins adds, “Just like the Red Cross. When somebody’s house burns down, the Red Cross is there. We want to be that for parents who lose their children to violence. We need to send somebody from PAIN and let them know we understand what they are going through.”
Those Left Behind
In between the meetings, the mothers take some joy and comfort in their grandchildren. They each talked about how the children remind them of their fathers and mothers and about the pain those children were experiencing since the murders.
“Brock left little Roger, Jr. behind,” said Rosa. “A little fellow that looks just like him, acts just like his daddy. The little boy has all his daddy’s ways when he was little.”
The boy, age 6, cries for his dad. “He asks for his dad every day and wants to know why his dad can’t come be with him,” she said.
She remembers them sitting together with their hands behind their heads watching football, eating pizza and drinking cokes. They had a relationship where he could always count on his dad to be there for him.
“When he sees a bird, he asks the bird to go up to heaven and get my daddy,” Rosa said.
Faith plays a big part in how these mothers cope.
“I thank God that the Lord allowed me to have my son for 25 years,” said Lavon. “I thank God that he had two kids.”
Angela agreed, but has been worried about her grandchildren. “Her little five-year-old boy is taking it so hard,” she said, fighting back tears. “He’s having a hard time in school. He’s acting out.”
She has found the boy screaming in his bed at 4 a.m. “He’s not having a bad dream. He’s laying over there crying, because he misses his momma so much,” she said. “How I’m gonna explain to the second baby, that now has no momma or daddy, that his daddy is in jail for killing his momma?”
Wiggins believes that PAIN must also reach out to the younger generations, especially those who have lost parents to violence.
“We need to reach these grandchildren and instill values. We need to reach out to parents and tell them that they are their child’s first teacher—not the school board and teachers, the parents. And when the parents falter, we need to be there.”
She believes PAIN’s best days are ahead.
“We will get better,” Wiggins said. “These mothers do an excellent job now, but I want PAIN to be an organization where parents can come and say, ‘I’m mad as heck and this is why I’m mad’ and it’s okay to vent.”
“Then once they vent, we go into action.”
She adds with a broad smile, “Out of their pain is going to come something good.”
One More Murder
The body of a man kidnapped from his residence on Christmas Eve was found by Pensacola Police on Dec. 26 in a wooded lot off of North S Street after receiving an anonymous tip that the body was there.
The man was identified as Torrance L. Hackworth, 32, of the 1300 block of North J Street, who had been abducted around 2:45 a.m. Dec 24 at his apartment. Although a motive for the home invasion/kidnapping remains under investigation, it is believed to have been drug related.
Note: if you want to add more, use this too.
A 36-year-old woman told police she was sleeping in bed on Dec. 24 when four to five unknown males entered her apartment. The woman, who was awakened by people yelling, said all of the men were wearing dark clothes and were holding guns. One of the men was pointing a gun in her face when she awoke.
The woman and four of her children—ranging in age from four to 10—were ordered into the living room at gunpoint. She said she saw Hackworth, her boyfriend, tied up, lying on the living room floor and bleeding.
The woman told police the men ransacked the apartment, took some items—including her car keys—and then carried Hackworth, who had duct tape over his mouth, out to her car where they put him into the trunk and drove off with the car.
The vehicle was later found submerged at Sanders Beach in the 900 block of South I
Street, but Hackworth was not found in the trunk.
The Gun Crime Response Team has been activated and is assisting with the investigation.
Anyone having information on the incident is asked to contact the Pensacola Police Department at 435-1900.
Parents Against Injustice & Negligence (PAIN)
Organizer: Lisa Wiggins, Change Starts Now International Ministries
Next meeting: Monday, Jan. 7, call for time
Phone: 637-1611, 637-1637