Johnson's surrender will ease fear of more death in Meacham Park
By Sylvester Brown Jr.
Of the Post-Dispatch
I'm relieved to hear you surrendered to police, Rockhead.
After spending a few hours talking with some of your buddies, neighbors and relatives Friday, I've learned that things are pretty tense in your neighborhood of Meacham Park. Police have searched homes, blocked streets and questioned residents. Your family and friends were fearing for your life ... and their neighborhood.
I've learned quite a bit about you, young man. I know your real name is Kevin Johnson, but your cousin, Adrian, 15, told me you like the nickname "Rockhead." Adrian and a group of friends bragged about your athletic prowess. They had you pegged as a future football star or a boxing champion. You excelled at both sports, they said. They spoke of your humor and how you laugh when they make fun of your "big head."
They were shocked to see your face on TV and in newspapers related to the shooting Tuesday night of Sgt. William McEntee, a 19-year veteran of the Kirkwood Police Department. Witnesses say you shot McEntee as he sat in his patrol car and again as onlookers tried to save his life.
Did you know anything about the man, Rockhead? Maybe you should. His friends, family and fellow officers called him "Big Mac," mainly because of his size - 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. McEntee, 43, was a baseball and soccer coach. He and his wife, Mary, have three children, 13, 10 and 7.
A husband, father and friend is gone, Rockhead. But you know that, don't you?
Things have changed in your neighborhood since you became a fugitive. I talked to your cousin as he and his friends sat on the porch of a house a few yards from where McEntee was killed on Alsobrook Street. A Kirkwood police car slowly cruised by. The officers stared at the boys, they stared back in silence. Police used to talk and wave, the boys told me. Not any more. Not since the shooting.
"They ready to kill anybody," Adrian whispered as his eyes trailed the passing police car.
Is that how you felt, Rockhead? Were you ready to "kill anybody" after your 12-year-old brother, Joseph "Bam Bam" Long, died of heart failure? Your great-grandparents - Henrietta and Anderson Kimble - told me about the defect in Bam Bam's heart. "The valves were switched," your great-grandmother explained. But Bam Bam didn't seem to have any problems, she said. He swam and rode his bicycle every day.
Do you blame yourself for your brother's death, Rockhead? After all, police were looking for you because you broke the stipulations of your parole when you removed your electronic ankle bracelet. They were outside the house of Patricia Ward (your grandmother) looking at your white SUV, your great-grandmother said. They had no idea you were next door, peeking through your great-grandparents' curtains. She told me how you gave Bam Bam the keys to your truck.
"Give these to Grandma," she recalled you saying. "Ask her to tell the police she was driving my truck."
You couldn't have known Bam Bam's heart seized and he collapsed, face forward, on your grandma's living room floor.
From behind the curtain, you saw Ward run out screaming, asking police for help, didn't you? You probably didn't panic, though, because - as I heard it from your family - the police walked slowly toward the house. It must have angered you when they told you that police made everyone leave the house to search for you, rather than help your brother.
Hearing from your family that police never checked Bam Bam's pulse must have infuriated you. Your grandmother told me Bam Bam was still lying face-down when the ambulance came - 20 minutes after the child collapsed.
After the police and ambulance left, you asked about Bam Bam. He "didn't make it," you were told - he'd taken his last breath before the ambulance arrived. Your great-grandmother said you just ran out of the house. She heard from neighbors, hours later, that you shot McEntee in cold blood.
Police initially denied McEntee was on the scene, although your grandmother swore the tall officer was one of the men searching her home. You must have seen him, too. Capt. Diane Scanga, the public information officer for the Kirkwood Police Department, told me Friday that McEntee was indeed one of the officers who visited the house.
No doubt you were angry, Rockhead, but what you did was wrong. Your great-grandfather underscored my point with Scripture:
"Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord."
Kimble broke into sobs Friday morning, Rockhead. He cried for Bam Bam, and he worried that police would gun you down. Hopefully, your surrender will relieve some of the tension in Meacham Park.
Talk in his forum: STLtoday.com/sbrown