ROCKFORD, Ill. (FinalCall.com) – In an exclusive interview with The Final Call, Apostle Melvin Brown described the trauma he, his family and the church family, have suffered since the fatal shooting of a young Black man in the church basement August 24, 2009.
Since the shooting incident, Kingdom Authority International Ministries has struggled to remain afloat, and the pastor said the church lost 50 percent of its day care business within a week of the incident.
Brown was critical of the Rockford police and government officials handling of the incident, which was witnessed by his wife and daughter. His wife and daughter are fighting felony contempt charges and accused of lying to authorities and Pastor Brown faces a civil lawsuit that has been filed against him by an officer involved in the shooting.
Brown lost 75 percent of the church’s membership, and believes they simply walked away fearful of retribution and attention generated by this case. “They told my wife that it was just too stressful,” he said.
His wife, Sheila Brown, shielded the children once police came down into the basement of the church trying to apprehend a 23-year-old Black male, Mark Anthony Barmore, who was talking to the pastor’s wife and ran into the church once officers spotted him. He was a suspect in a domestic abuse case. Mr. Barmore ended up trapped in the basement, where the church runs a day care center, and tried to hide in a boiler room.
The mother and daughter say Mr. Barmore exited the boiler room with his hands up and head down, but was still shot by police officers in the presence of young children. Apostle Brown said his wife covered the children with her body as the shots rang out.
Yet his wife and 17-year-old daughter Marissa have come under attack and suffered harassment in an attempt to intimidate them since they were the only eyewitnesses to the Barmore shooting, he said. Their accounts differ dramatically from officers, who have insisted there was a struggle with the suspect for an officer’s weapon before the fatal shots were fired. National civil rights leaders and local activists have called for a federal investigation and the Justice Dept. is active in the case.
Apostle Brown believes strongly that Rockford police were involved in a cover-up from the moment the shooting occurred. “I have not been satisfied because from day one they started covering up,” said Apostle Brown. “First of all you take my wife without her understanding the law and treat her like a criminal instead of a witness. They took my wife and daughter and made them stay down there for almost six or seven hours when it only takes a few minutes to give your statement of what you saw. They tried to cross my wife and daughter’s statements up,” he said.
Apostle Brown believes those questioning his wife and daughter immediately after the shooting acted unethically and tried to skew their accounts in ways that would hide the actions of the police officers.
“They tried to put in what they wanted to put in. They really interrogated my wife and daughter while they were down there,” he said.
Apostle Brown said his family has been followed by police and officers have been sitting outside the homes of some family members.
“They are trying to make my wife and daughter look like liars amongst the public to discredit them and they are trying to discredit my family, discredit my church, trying to take down my credibility,” said Apostle Brown. “Every chance they can get … they are following my family. Anything they can arrest my family for–any little thing.”
Steve Muhammad was the primary catalyst for bringing attention to this case and was instrumental in gaining support and resources from the Rockford area to assist and secure Apostle Brown and his family. He has provided security for the family and helped work on the ground to build support for the pastor and the call for justice in the case. Student minister Yacholyah Muhammad, area representative of the Nation of Islam and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan also worked diligently, following the case closely and offering support from the Nation of Islam Study Group. Min. Farrakhan came to Rockford on Sept. 18 to call for justice and unity in the Barmore case. (See related story.)
One of the vocal supporters of Apostle Brown who has been involved from the very beginning is Dr. Levern Murphy of the New Life Movement, a Chicago-based political action group. Dr. Murphy said he viewed Mr. Barmore’s body at the morgue with his own eyes, and has listened to the eyewitnesses.
“The circumstances are clear. Mark Anthony Barmore should be alive today,” said Dr. Murphy. “Mark Anthony Barmore is the face of institutional police’s disregard for the health, life and welfare of Black people all over this land!”
Apostle Brown said his struggles led to an epiphany: Seekers of justice and brotherhood extend beyond the boundaries of what has historically divided different religious communities. He found great support and kinship among Muslims and among Latino pastors and groups–even as Black Christian pastors walked away from him.
“I stepped out of religion. Religion told me who was my brother who was my sister,” said Apostle Brown. “But when I stepped out of religion, I found out that I have brothers and sisters all over this world that I never knew. God is bigger than your box.”