"It's always, 'I don't wanna be involved. I don't wanna be involved. I don't wanna be involved,' until it's their son or daughter and then they want somebody to step forward and say something." Ms. Angela Hopkins to author, April 8, 2015
Mr. Darrington 'Tooley' Lovely
On April 8, 2015, I interviewed Ms. Angela Hopkins regarding the murder of her son, Mr. Darrington Lovely, known affectionately by his mother and his wide circle of friends as 'Tooley' and by his rapper nickname on YouTube as 'Tooley Fresh.'
According to a NorthEscambia report, the 21-year old Mr. Lovely was shot around 2115 hours on August 22, 2012, in the "1100 block of Webster Drive in the Mayfair community." He was transported to the hospital where he died.
Ms. Hopkins told me that Tooley was killed on his grandmother's birthday. She called 2012 "the worst year of my life. I can't celebrate my momma's birthday."
Miss Angie spoke from a deep heart filled with pain when she explained that "I thank God for the time I had with him and could see him for the last time in his casket." She added, "Sometimes Tooley made me so mad, but before I went to bed I would tell him I loved him. And he would say, 'I love you too, momma."
Mr. Lovely left behind two brothers, three grandmothers, aunts, cousins, and friends. He was also best friends with Mr. Blair Amos, Ms. Lucy Amos's son, discussed in a March 2015 post. In fact, the last photograph ever taken of Mr. Lovely was him at the grave of his best friend Mr. Amos (see below).
Mr. Darrington 'Tooley' Lovely, far right.
At the candlelight vigil for Tooley, Miss Angie told me that her son, nicknamed Kooda Bang, was very close to Tooley. She said that "Kooda let out a cry that tore me in half. I've never seen so many grown men cry in my life."
To other mothers she said, "Kids need to hear you say you love them, no matter how old they are because you don't know when their time is coming."
Remembering Mr. Lovely
Miss Angie described Tooley as "real smart. He graduated from high school when he was sixteen years old and had two academic scholarships" available for him to go to college--to Alabama State University and Clark Atlanta University. Miss Angie told me that he was planning to attend college. He so believed in getting an education that he had pushed his girlfriend to go back to school.
Tooley had a big heart. Miss Angie told me "he would help anybody and pay your light bill."
He always came to family gatherings and he was very involved with his family.
His uncle was a preacher and when Tooley was a young boy he aspired to be a preacher. Though he did not attend church regularly, he always gave a tithe.
As I have stated earlier, no one on this planet has ever passed the "saint" or "angel" or "perfect" test--not even Jesus who had a Roman criminal conviction before being executed.
Among other things, Miss Angie believes that Tooley "did not deserve to be shot in the back. If they had shot him in the chest, I could respect that; but not in the back."
But, one should remember and keep this idea central to the story: Tooley was a victim, he was not a criminal.
The most recent brush with the law was when he was wanted for questioning regarding the May 2011 shooting death of Mr. Brock Johnson, son of Ms. Rosa Dukes. Mr. Lovely responded immediately to a public announcement from the Sheriff's Office that he was wanted for questioned and was released. Miss Angie told me that although he had had a "beef" with Mr. Johnson, he had nothing to do with his murder.
Ms. Hopkins on the Escambia County Sheriff's Office
Ms. Hopkins told me that she had a "great relationship" with the first investigator, Phillip Martin, who "frequently checked on me." Deputy Martin apparently knew Tooley, according to Miss Angie. She told me that Deputy Martin could not take his suspicions to a Grand Jury without hard evidence. After Deputy Phillips left the case, Miss Angie called the Sheriff's Office. Deputy Martin, who was out of town attending a conference, took the time to return her call. Miss Angie expressed her gratitude saying, "That meant a lot to me."
The second investigator, a female, was completely the opposite. She gave Ms. Hopkins the "run around," did not make contact with her, and would tell her she "knew nothing new." Ms. Hopkins was left with a very bitter taste in her mouth, telling me: "She was like, this is just a job. I don't care if we find the killer. I'm getting a paycheck. He was a street person, so he didn't matter."
When I asked her what she would like to say to Sheriff Morgan, she was unequivocal: "He needs to get better investigators who look at these murders as something more than collecting a paycheck. They always want to make the victim appear to be gang-related. If it's not gang-related, its drug-related."
In a sigh of frustration she told me that "every blue moon, there might be one murder solved."
Ms. Hopkins stated that she did not understand where all the guns were coming from. She wanted the Sheriff's Office to establish a "task force to stop these guns coming into Pensacola. Any kid can go on the street and buy a gun. How is that? Now kids just kill each other over trivial arguments. There are too many senseless murders just because somebody made a dollar more than you. Just senseless."
Ms. Hopkins thought that the Sheriff's Office "needs a real cold case unit dedicated to unsolved cases and bring them up every so often. But I don't hear any reminders from the Sheriff. There are too many unsolved murders in Pensacola. It just needs to stop. Life is too short."
Ms. Hopkins to the Killer
Miss Angie was very direct and angry, justifiably so, towards the unknown killer. I asked her what she would want to say to the killer and she responded: "Every day you have his blood on your hands. Every day you should see his face. How you get a peaceful sleep at night is beyond me."
She continued, "You should know that you left his mother and his two brothers with a piece of their hearts missing. We are the ones that are hurting. Once you killed him, all his pain is gone."
"When you kill somebody, you ain't hurting them. You're hurting everybody they left behind. Everywhere I go, I hear Tooley's voice. It's like having your heart torn out."
To Any Witness Who May Know Something
Ms. Hopkins acknowledged that witnesses do not come forward and provide information to the Sheriff's Office. She plaintively told me, "It's always, 'I don't wanna be involved. I don't wanna be involved. I don't wanna be involved' until it's their son or daughter and then they want somebody to step forward and say something."
Miss Angie stated, "It ain't snitching to talk when somebody when somebody takes somebody's life. The same boat I'm in today, they could be in tomorrow."
Miss Angie pleaded, "If you know who killed my baby, even if you are facing jail time, please say something. Today it's me. Tomorrow it could be you."
Miss Angie added, "With the killer walking around you really have no closure. I don't understand that nobody knows nothing. I know you don't want to be involved, but call Crime Stoppers" (850-433-7867).
Miss Angie told me that "My son was killed at a house where everybody hung out but nobody nobody knows nothing. The people in the house heard nothing, but neighbors to the left, right, and across the street heard the gunshot."
"Nobody cares that Black men are getting killed," she lamented.
Miss Angie To Other Mothers
Miss Angie spoke to other unseen mothers yet feel the searing pain of losing a child and an unfathomable grief: "If you haven't been through it, you have no idea what we are going through. Somedays are good. And some days you just break down in the middle of the grocery store."
Miss Angie gets through each day from her faith: "I get strength from my faith. Lord just give me strength to get through this day without my baby."
Writing January 2013, Rick Outzen reported in InWeekly that in 2011 only five counties in Florida had a higher murder rate than Escambia's 5.35 murders per 100,000 residents. As of Christmas day 2012, Escambia County had 22 murders. Outzen reported that Sheriff Morgan and his deputies were "frustrated" because residents did not come forward to provide information related to the murder of Mr. Brock Johnson.
In 2012, there 23 homicides in Escambia County. Seven were within the jurisdiction of the Pensicola Police Department and 16 under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Office. Four of the seven homicides were unsolved by the PPD while 10 of the 16 murders were unsolved by the ECSO. The murders appeared to be driven by burglaries and some kind of link to drugs. Both department heads were frustrated by the lack of information coming from the community. Sheriff Morgan told a town hall meeting called in the aftermath of a double murder that fear of retribution was not a valid excuse for not coming forward. The Sheriff told the assembled citizens, "I'm sorry folks, but that just doesn't hold any water anymore," according to the Pensacola News Journal report.
A Pensacola News Journal article reported that 12 of the 25 homicides in Escambia County were unsolved. The newspaper reported that while the number of murders has fluctuated while Sheriff Morgan has been in office, "Escambia's annual murder totals...occur at a higher rate than the national average: 7.3 per 100,000 people compared with 4.7 in the period from 2009 through 2013. In comparison, between 2008 and 2012 the average for Miami-Dade County (Miami) is 8.6 and Hillsborough County (Tampa) is 4.8."
Sheriff Morgan, according to the PNJ report "blamed 'the wall of silence, the refusal of the community to come forward with information. We would not have any unsolved homicides if the community would cooperate."
In 2014, there 19 murders in Escambia County, 16 of which were under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Office. County-wide, 15 of the 19 murders resulted in an arrest of a suspect, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
Sheriff Morgan neither blamed nor praised the residents of Escambia County for the higher clearance rate for homicides, suggesting that either that these murders were easier to solve, or, as it gets closer to election time there is a greater emphasis on closing murder cases with arrests.
There is probably a great reluctance of residents of Escambia County to provide information to the Sheriff's Office. It is doubtful, however, that it is related to a fear of reprisals from criminals. The more likely source of this lack of cooperation is that the residents do not trust Sheriff Morgan and his deputies. Most of the homicide victims are Black and most of the residents I talk to believe the Sheriff and his deputies are out of touch with the community and do not care about the community.
The grievous loss suffered by Ms. Angela Hopkins was compounded by two factors--the lack of information coming from potential witnesses and the indifference of the second investigator assigned to the case. These two factors appear linked in complex ways. We may never know how close Deputy Martin was coming to solve the murder of Mr. Lovely because he was promoted and taken off the case. His replacement appeared, to Ms. Hopkins, to be utterly indifferent to solving the case.
One solution is for those who have information to come forward and provide it either directly to the Sheriff's Office or anonymously through Crime Stoppers.
But, there is one way to find a solution to this problem--get rid of Sheriff Morgan and put in a new Sheriff who will build community trust because he understands all the communities of Escambia County--white, Black, Latino, LGBTQ, businesses, and, the wealthy and the struggling.
P.S. Last night when I searched for unsolved homicides in Escambia County three facts became apparent. One, the Sheriff's Office webpage contains no listing of such crimes--an apparent sign of institutional forgetting. Two, the Crime Stopper webpage for the Gulf Coast contains only two unsolved cases--all the other cases have been forgotten. And three, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's webpage is essentially useless for finding unsolved homicides. The search engine is so basic as to be archaic and when I clicked on the first name there was no data.