Friday, September 30th would change the lives of many, mine included. By now you know the name Reginald Thomas Jr. or as he was affectingly known as JR. I even heard some remembering him as Lil Reggie. It had been two decades since I personally witnessed the aftermath of a life taken too soon. This was my first time experiencing the crush of emotions that I will likely never feel again. The sobering reality of seeing what has become so common in America up close as a grown and understanding man is painful and awakening.
When I arrived at the Orange Grove Gardens Complex to see the brokenness and despair in the eyes of those who knew and loved him JR I knew the picture wasn't being painted with understanding hands.
I decided to learn who JR was and how he would be remembered. I thought about years from now what a Google search would pull up. Would the algorithm only push the negative or could children, family and love ones find this article and know that someone from the “media” cared enough to want learn about the father, husband and community influence he had.
I spent several hours talking with JR’s many friends who said they’ve known him their entire life. I quickly realized what this close-net community had lost. Jasmine Abdullah, choking back tears told me she started Black Lives Matter Pasadena to save her friends and she couldn't save JR. While we were talking she paused as the family matriarch Ms. Walker, JR’s grandmother walked pass. This mother has seen many things in her lifetime. She lived through Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement and our first Black President Barack Obama. I imagine none of those things could have prepared her for this day.
In the parking lot of Joe’s Ice Store I asked some longtime friends to tell me about JR. One of his homies broke from his visibly state of disbelief and shared that JR was Daddy Daycare, not just to his own children, but all the kids in the complex. There were mixed reviews on his culinary skills, some joked he could cook more than hotdogs.
As the day turned to night more family and friends arrived. Seeing people who had been displaced and some unable to return to their homes until the unwanted police were gone. Naively, I assumed when they left that the City of Pasadena would send grief counselors and crisis intervention specialist. Nope, that didn’t happen. People were just left to attempt to cope, idling through vicarious trauma flare ups. Somethings can’t be unseen or unheard.
This was total mismanagement of a situation by the Pasadena Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. After a press conference with the Thomas family attorney we were told by the PPD that the LA County Sheriff's are answering all questions about the case from this point forward. Pasadena Police Chief Sanchez has shown no remorse or grieve towards the family even in the obviousness of several mistakes that were made.
I didn’t personally know him, and had only heard the police driven statements mainstream media had reported. Knowing that’s standard operating procedure. Knowing that for a Black Men contacting the police could lead to your death.