No matter where you go or how old you are, there is an unwritten rule that ties all parents together. That unwritten rule is that parents are not supposed to bury their children and shouldn’t have to attend their own child’s funeral.
Sadly, however, when a parent has to bury their own child, it is heart wrenching. It is even more devastating when you believe your child was murdered and died a senseless death behind a case of mistaken identity.
Janet Baker knows that devastation all too well and is living every day with that pain since the recent death of her only child, Jordan.
On January 16th, Jordan Baker, an unarmed 26-year-old college student, was gunned down by off-duty Houston Police Department (HPD) Officer J. Castro, an 11-year veteran who was providing security for the Northwest Houston strip mall where Jordan was killed.
According to his mother, Jordan had never been in trouble with the law since high school, when he had minor offenses that were dropped. Jordan was a student at Houston Community College, and was seeking to better his life in order to provide and be a role-model for his 7-year-old son, Jordan, who is named after him.
Janet says that her grandson has been having an extremely tough time dealing with the loss of his father and is seeking healing through remembering the fond memories of his father.
"Jordan did everything for his son. His son was his life," said Janet. "Jordan did everything right. Not only was he a college student, he was working part time. He’s not the way the police portrayed him. He’s a father. He’s a grandson. He’s a son. And he was just taken away from us so soon."
Janet has denied the details from police reports that have surfaced about her son and believes the Houston Police Department (HPD) is trying to provide justification for the series of events that led to her son’s death; a series of events that she believes doesn’t quite add up.
According to police reports, Jordan was shot dead by Castro when he allegedly saw him riding his bike through the strip mall parking lot and allegedly looking into local businesses.
According to those reports, the suspicious officer approached Jordan and asked to see his identification, to which the officer claims Jordan began to scuffle with him and ran away. Castro claims that a foot chase ensued, before the officer caught up with Jordan and cornered him in an alley behind the strip mall. Castro told investigators that Jordan lunged at him and charged towards him, prompting him to discharge his weapon and kill the young man.
Castro claimed that he was on the lookout for hoodie-wearing armed robbery suspects and believed Jordan matched the description of one of the three robbers who wore black hoodies and had recently held up three stores at the strip mall. Jordan, who was unarmed when he was gunned down that fateful evening, happened to be wearing a black hoodie.
Immediately after the shooting, and well before Jordan was named as the victim, police were sharing a narrative with the media that Castro had killed Jordan because he was a suspect in the recent string of robberies.
Castro, who was the only witness to the shooting death, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, which is a common occurrence in shootings involving police officers.
HPD Police Chief Charles McClelland provided a statement acknowledging that investigators had found no weapons at the scene belonging to Jordan. McClelland went further in his statement, adding that "any police officer’s decision and justification to use deadly force is not absolute on whether the suspect is armed with a weapon. There is no federal, state law, nor police training that requires a suspect to be armed. The justification to use deadly force is based on the officer’s perception given the specific circumstances surrounding the incident."
This incident has left a void in the heart of Janet, who says that not a day goes by when she doesn’t grieve for the loss of her son.
"I am numb," said Janet. "I don’t want another mother or father to have to deal with the pain that I am going through right now and not being able to accept the fact that I know my son had no weapon and was killed because of mistaken identity. It hurts me dearly and even though my faith was strong, I’ve needed an extra ounce of faith in order to deal with the loss of my only child."
Community activist Quanell X along with members of Jordan’s family and other concerned citizens, held a prayer vigil and press conference to speak out on Jordan’s killing.at the Northwest Houston strip center where he was killed. Quanell X demanded there be a federal probe into this killing and called upon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to fully investigate and prosecute Officer Castro for the killing.
"He was guilty of only two things – being a young African male and wearing a hoodie at night," said Quanell X. "He (Castro) wants everyone to believe that Jordan rushed a cop with a gun in his hand, unarmed, with no weapon in his hand. This doesn’t make any sense at all."
Ironically, not only does Jordan Baker’s story mirror that of Trayvon Martin, who was killed based on the suspicion of being a criminal and wearing a hoodie, they also share the same birthday; February 5.
George Zimmerman claimed that he was protecting his gated community because of a recent string of robberies in his gated community and he decided to serve as the neighborhood watchman. Because Trayvon Martin was a young black male wearing a hoodie, he decided that he matched the description of the suspects and chose to follow him and eventually kill him.
The Trayvon Martin murder has opened up the door for the opportunity to have genuine and frank discussions about race and the perception problem surrounding African Americans.
The overarching perception amongst many officers is that young Black men are overly aggressive criminals and inherently up to no good, which leads to many police officers’ aggressive dealings with these young Black men. Sadly, most police shootings of unarmed Black men tend to end up the same way, whereby the police officers get away with a slap on the wrist or no punishment at all.
As we look at Black murder victims piling up in this country, where their killers have been given nothing more than a slap on the wrist for killing innocent and unarmed individuals; such as Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Ida Lee Delaney, Carl Hampton, Jordan Baker and many others; there is reason for concern.
As we look at Black victims of police brutality, like Robbie Tolan, who was shot in the back by a police officer who pulled him over in front of his home because of mistaken identity, and even the acts which were caught on video camera such as the Rodney King incident, many activists and citizens have become disenchanted with a system that they believe allows Black people to be victimized and the perpetrators to avoid accountability for their actions.
While the murder of Trayvon Martin sparked national outrage and a demand for justice, time will tell if the community gets behind the murder of Jordan Baker with the same passion and concern.