I Remember Terrence Johnson

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I Remember Terrence Johnson

Throughout the 20th century many events took place. Of course, a lot of things happened in my lifetime, and a lot more happened in my lifetime. What comes to mind at the moment is the frustrating life of Terrence Johnson. I believe this one is very important to me now because it is so close to home. We followed it from start to finish. We know and understand many of the situations we have and continue to encounter as young black males in our dealings with officials. And, in many ways, it shapes how we think and look at how we approach law enforcement.

In 1997, after robbing a National Bank in Aberdeen, Maryland, Terrence Johnson was surrounded by police and killed himself with a gun to his head. I was on my way home from get off work when the news flashed on the radio. A sense of stillness came over me the moment I heard it. In an instant, my mind began to flash back to 19 years ago, when the news had just spread throughout the block that “that guy from Bladensburg named Terrence Johnson” had killed two police officers. Like the flickering of a slide projector, my mind began to jump between different images of Terrence being led by the police on the TV. At the time, it didn’t occur to me how young he looked. But then again, I was two years younger. However, in those first few years, I grew old and watched him grow old.

Moving on, I’m reminded of nine years ago when I saw him being interviewed on WHMM Channel 32. That’s when reality finally set in. “he died!”

From that moment on, I couldn’t hold back the tears. But my tears were not just tears of sadness. They were furious. “But to whom?” That’s the question. I’m not sure if I’m mad at him for taking that detour or at society for paving that road.

One thing I know for sure is that this situation is so close to home that it scares me. To me, Terrence Johnson symbolizes the life of an era—an era with which I can personally identify. You see, when I look at Terrence Johnson, I see myself. Not just myself, but a lot of people I know and grow up with. And, I really realized that it could have been me or any other kid I knew who was locked up at that police station that night.

That’s why I feel those of us who actually defended him are sincere. Deep down, we want to see something positive bloom from something so negative. So, when they finally released him, we were content — and watched from the sidelines. Even if we don’t realize we’re watching, we’re watching. I have this feeling because heads turn every time his name is mentioned. They still turn around. But what are we really seeing? I, myself, have seen life end the way it began.

I was brought up to a verse that says, “We reap what we sow.” Here, I’m not referring to Terrence. I mean society. In my opinion, what we are seeing is the result of racism. Apparently, this is where it all started. What I saw was a police officer approaching a situation based on his perception of a young black boy in a metropolitan area. That’s why so many of us ask questions like, “Why did he do that?” or “If he had a problem, why didn’t he go to someone else?” or “Did he really shoot himself or was someone Framed?” Because we refuse to accept the “cold-blooded killer” label that society has put on him.

So, in defense of the name Terrence Johnson, I want to take you through a story while asking you just one question. Every time I’m asked this question, I want you to write down your answer. In doing so, I wanted to embrace a scene from the movie “A Time to Kill.”

Let’s imagine. You are fifteen years old. now it is night. You and your brother were stopped by three police cars and taken by force to the police station. Although you were told that your brother was involved in the break-and-enter, you have not been charged. At the police station, you find yourself being treated differently than everyone else there, and you’re sure it’s because you’re black. The aggressive treatment continues when you are being questioned by one of the officers.

what do you think?

Let’s say the officer starts to get more and more agitated because he feels you’re not answering his questions in time. In his agitation, he kicks your chair from under you, causing you to fall to the ground (you are handcuffed, by the way). He got excited again and kicked it again.

what do you think?

At this point, you’re hurt. You yell at the officer that he can’t do this to you, and in response, he “fights back” at you for “getting cunning.”

what do you think?

You start crying because deep down you know there is nothing you can do. In the rage of being defeated, you decide to try picking up a chair and throwing it, but are attacked by three other officers and thrown against the wall. Then, one of the officers said, “Take his handcuffs off, I’m going to kick his black ass!”

what do you think?

They remove your handcuffs and push you into an empty room where the threatening officer comes in and starts beating you. You feel blood start to drip from your head. what do you think?

You try to fight back by biting his chest, but he’s bigger and stronger than you. Then he puts his knees on your chest, causing you to fall backwards.

what do you think?

As you fell backwards, your hand grabbed his gun and it ripped from the holster.

what do you think?

You get up from the ground and realize the gun is in your hand. The officer is also aware and starts charging at you because you have a gun.

what do you think?

You panic. Anxiety has grown to extreme proportions. You start to run away, but are thoroughly beaten by several other police officers. Although you are 15 years old, you are on trial as an adult for the murder of two police officers.

what do you think?

Time passed, but the horror of that night still lingered. It’s everywhere, especially in the media. You are getting a little older. You are now 17 years old. So far you’ve been moved in and out of court, fought a million dollar bail, called your story a liar, been moved from prison to prison, thrown in adult prisons and treated like the lowest class on earth the scum. Contrary to your belief, your name has been passed through the media as a “Cold Blooded Cop Killer”. The school refuses you to take any courses. You are threatened and beaten all the time. Your family and friends have been receiving countless death threats. In the end, you were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

what do you think?

OK Many years have passed. You are now 31 years old. You can still vaguely remember what life was like before that dark night at the police station, such as: spending time with girlfriends, hanging out at the drive-in cinema, going to Busch Gardens with friends. But the moments that stick out the most are learning how to survive inside the prison walls, being jumped and robbed by other inmates, being beaten up by prison guards in front of your mother, and the constant counseling sessions trying to convince you that they are a “cold blooded cop” Killer,” who spent days in a place where nothing was allowed except the toilet and the skin on his back.

During that time, however, some light shines on you, and along with unhappiness, moments of hope come your way. Always have your back. You’ve been able to earn your GED, AA degree, and BS in Business Administration with a 3.6 average. You’ve acquired vocational skills in carpentry, ceramics and office automation. You can even get married already.

Finally, it happened. After 17 years of adversity, you are released despite strong opposition from the same police department that placed you here. You are free to start the life you have always dreamed of.

what do you think?

Your second chance in life has begun! People from all over the world recognize you and show their support for you. Lawyers and businessmen seem to have you under their wing. You are about to go to law school. You’ve got your money and a place to live for free for a while. People always want to support you. You will have the opportunity to participate in the Millionaire’s Parade. You’re even told a book and a movie deal about your life.

what do you think?

OK It has been two years since you were released. It’s not as bad as it was years ago, but it’s not the same as when you first came out. While trying to get into Howard University Law School, you discover that you are not wanted there. So, instead, you’re registered with UDC. You still have supporters, but you also have people who say, “Look at him! He’s going to prove he’s a criminal!” You’re paying rent now, and it’s become a stress. The marriage doesn’t turn out the way you wanted, and you end up getting divorced. You have been threatened with eviction. Your father is sick and your mother is not well. A familiar sense of hopelessness began to lurk back. Even though you haven’t felt it in years, you know how it feels when it hits. oh oh! wait! The school is in financial trouble. Due to city cuts, the course grants offered to you have been eliminated. You must quit school.

what do you think?

Take a moment to look at your life. Can bad things measure good things? There are a lot of people watching, for all different reasons. What are you doing? At this point, what important things have you actually accomplished? what is your future How many people depend on you? And, how are you going to pay those damn bills! ? That’s the problem. All you need is money to get out of this slump and everything will return to normal. But, we’re talking a lot of money. Don’t forget tuition fees. Don’t forget to pay rent or whatever. Don’t forget you have a new baby boy to take care of. Dad’s prostate cancer test results will be back soon. You need a lot of money – now! “A man isn’t a man if he doesn’t take care of himself.” I had an idea. Let’s see what happened along the way. Hook up some buddies, make some quick bucks – and get on your feet right now. However, it has to be swift – something that lasts for a while. At least until the book or movie deal is done.

OK You and your brother agree to rob. A bank job. You are locked up. You know the story of how it’s supposed to be done. It’s an “in and out” thing. Sneak in and take the money, ‘presto’, sneak out now. No one will get hurt. Remember, you don’t want to hurt anyone. Not that. And, you sure as hell don’t want to go back to prison. Nothing! You and your brother get out of the area and do it. You and your brother rob a bank. However, in the process of trying to sneak out, you find that things are not as simple as you thought. The police stop you. Now, this scene here looks very familiar. You know exactly where this scene is leading. face it. You screwed up again. You’ve tried it the right way and it didn’t work. You tried the wrong way and it didn’t work. What do you see? It just doesn’t work! You just can’t win! forget it!

what do you think?

Terrence once said that he hadn’t been happy for a long time, and he didn’t know what it felt like. He also said that managing prison life required a certain mindset — one that he really didn’t have. I’m not saying I agree with my brother’s decision – but I understand!

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