by Dorothy Johnson-Speight, MHS, LPC.
From Faces of Courage
My son Khaaliq was my firstborn, my only son. As a parent I wanted him to have the best. I wanted him to be a productive member of society; I wanted him to have the opportunities that I’d never had.
Education is important to our family. Khaaliq went to the best schools in our neighborhood. My husband worked hours of overtime at the U.S. Postal Service, and at times I worked two jobs to send him through college. He appreciated everything that his family did for him.
In 1999, he graduated from the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, determined to make a difference in the lives of children at risk. He worked and studied hard to realize this goal. A week before he was murdered, he was accepted into a Masters program in Delaware. Khaaliq called me after the interview—so excited that he had been accepted—he was to start the first of January.
On the evening of December 6, 2001, when I got the phone call that my son had been shot, I entered into a state of disbelief—it didn’t make sense—I knew my son was not involved in a lifestyle that most think of when they hear of a shooting. My son had always been a kind, loving person. I don’t remember him even getting into a neighborhood fight as he grew up, or throughout his school days. He was a peacemaker. He never gave me trouble. He was what any mother would call “a good boy.” I couldn’t imagine, as I paced the floor of the Emergency Room, crying and praying for my son’s life, how this could have possibly happened.
What seemed like hours passed before the doctors came out to tell me that there was nothing else they could do. My son had suffered multiple gun shot wounds and I was led back to see him laying still on the hospital gurney. I was crushed and broken beyond description. The person responsible for my son’s murder was out on bail. Before he killed my son on December 6, 2001, he murdered 19-year-old Justin Donnelly two blocks away, in July of that same year. He had a long history of heinous crimes for which he had done little jailtime. Even with my limited knowledge of the law, I know this person should never been allowed to walk the streets with his continuous exhibition of violent criminal behavior.
Many systems failed. Khaaliq and Justin paid the ultimate price. Two families’ lives have been forever changed. We don’t know how many others have suffered at the hand of this violent person. How many innocent lives—people with gifts and contributions to make to this society—must be taken by criminals who cause such pain and devastation to families? Interventions are need…violent criminals are not born that way.