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A Real Protector

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While teens live with their parents, they may think they hate them. They get annoyed because their moms come storming in their rooms to wake them up early in the morning bearing nothing but smiles and swift movements due to the urgency of ticking time. The next day, they’re awakened with news that someone they saw and spoke to everyday, someone who made them laugh when they felt like crying, someone whose infectious laugh could have brought laughter to the rest of the world had died. I bet they wished they could have gone back to sleep, or that they were merely having a nightmare and their moms would soon be there to wake them.
Tendai Nhekairo was a senior at Campbell High School in Smyrna, Georgia. Despite minor academic setbacks, he was improving and scheduled to graduate. On the evening of March 27th, 2012, Tendai was fatally shot in the breezeway of his apartment home. A lot of controversy arose in the town of Smyrna after the shooting; whether or not it was “right” or if unnecessary force was used and if the stories being told were even factual. Only a month after the shooting of Treyvon Martin with the public still in upheaval, Tendai’s friends and family couldn’t help but see the resemblance.

In the shooting case of Tendai Nhekairo in Smyrna, Georgia, it’s clear that the justice system is liable for the inadequate police training, using excessive force and committing a racially motivated crime. Police officers are supposed to defend and protect. Kids are supposed to graduate and become doctors, lawyers, civil servants, educators and become functioning members of society. This couldn’t have been right. Even if all arrows pointed to using force, why was the arrow of compassion pointed a different way?
Do people ever wonder if police officers go through some type of psychological screenings to detect a tendency for subconscious bias? Unless one personally asked a police officer, who was willing to talk, nobody would ever know. But police officers should undergo this psychological screening, right? Despite a police officer’s duty to watch, serve, and protect, in this case, they “observed, judged, and fired.” According to Statistics on Police Brutality on termlifeindurnce.com, as of 2009, out of 2,541 cases, 23 percent of reports of misconduct are due by excessive force. Thirteen percent of those were fatalities. PPSC says that police training is thorough, providing tactics and strategies to avoid the unnecessary and maximum amount of force (PPSC Police Training Courses). Officers in training learn how to hold and accurately shoot a firearm by shooting at a body structure with marks that indicate different parts of the body. A police officer always knows where they’re shooting and if they claim they don’t, they didn’t pass their training. If a police officer’s duty includes protecting, how could they gun down Nhekairo in an area where he’d be forced to surrender where they also had a duty to protect his parents (his mother, Blessed and father, Mambasa Nhekairo), from enduring a broken heart due to the loss of a child. But maybe if Tendai were of different race, or a skin color whose statistics for crime were lower, things would’ve turned out better. Any parent would rather take a drive to the courthouse than their child’s tombstone.
Police brutality is happening all around. The article, Police from The World of Criminal Justice explains that “police brutality is a common complaint.” The article also makes claims the best way to address it (whether witness or victim) is to file a complaint. In some instances the complaint may result in a monetary settlement but money cannot compensate for the drain on the heart, the awful memories and the subconscious change in perspective the victims now have of the world and law enforcement.

In some places they have created “Civilian Review Boards” where members of the board investigate and dig up evidence about such wrong doings (Police). The need to establish these boards implies that there is an ample amount of complaints. Cleary this happens too often whether people know about it or not. The New York Times tells of the beating of Rodney King in 1991 and describes it as “a symbol of the nation’s continuing racial tensions” (York). More recently, Fox News says, the Trayvon Martin case, as “has become a national racial flashpoint because the Martin family and supporters contend Zimmerman singled Martin out because he was Black.” Fox News suggests that “It has also sparked renewed debate over "stands your ground" laws pushed by the National Rifle Association” (Autopsy of Trayvon Martin Reportedly Shows Fatal Bullet Fired from ‘intermediate range’”). Martin’s shooter was not immediately, backed up by these laws. They allow use of force under perceived threat from the suspect. Who knew walking home with your hands in your pockets, on the phone is a perceived threat. “Or maybe it’s because [he’s] Black,” a common response from an African-American who feels he or she has fallen victim to racial profiling.

Allegedly, Tendai was not fully dressed but that was nothing out of the ordinary for Mr. Nhekairo. Weapons were loosely added and subtracted from the crime with each report of the story. Tendai’s cousin by marriage and best friend, Kevin Chirwa “believes 100% that his death was a result of race” (Chirwa). Nhekairo was sometimes detestable, blunt, as well as soft spoken and very confident. Was it his overbearing confidence that lead to this fatal shooting? Was it his solely God-fearing attitude that caused the officer, still unnamed, to shoot him dead?
Nineteen year old Kevin Chirwa, in a personal interview, tells of how “wise, strong and passionate [Tendai] was in what he believed in.” He continues with, “I know for a fact he was not frightened by the gunman.” He goes on to compare Tendai’s confidence in himself and passion for what he believes to that of David from the biblical passage David and Goliath. Goliath was what one would call a “rebel.” David was just an average person whom people didn’t really entrust much responsibility other than considerably regular chores; much like Mr. Nhekairo. David knew he could take Goliath down without even a hardcore fight. His brothers doubted him and he proved them wrong. Tendai was the master of proving people wrong. Even when know no one stood behind him, he had enough confidence in himself.

Tendai could make someone “laugh in a heartbeat, whether they were just mad for whatever reason or angry at someone else. He was truly a blessing” (Chirwa). What happened to Tendai Nhekairo was avoidable. Especially at a tender age, he had so much more potential than what the police officer saw in him. This needs to stop. The differences within our country need to be embraced and not killed off.
From April 2009- to June 2010, Termlifeinsurance.org states that 5,986 reports of misconduct were recorded with 382 of them being fatalities. There’s no reason for deliberate killing; everyone understands that accidents happen. But when accidents happen, people are expected to take responsibility for their actions, or at least that’s what mommy teaches when her children take too long to get dressed after she’s woken them up for school three times. As she walks out the door they reply “it was an accident.” She backs out the driveway and the poor kid is forced to walk to school.

Although missed, Tendai will never be forgotten. He’s the Campbell High School class of 2012’s guardian angel. He watches over and protects; the police have apparently forgotten how to do so. Knowing that “he was interested in always finding out more about the Bible and eternal life,” informs Chirwa, we know that Tendai is living his life after death; a life he expected. He’s left Kevin and their friends with wonderful memories to brighten their saddest moments. He was my friend of six years. He left stories to soothe the aching hearts. He left Kevin with “courage and confidence to speak [his] mind. [He] knows in [he] can accomplish anything with the power of God” (Chirwa).

“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

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