By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Desmon Ray Jr. had a big smile and even bigger heart, remembered family members during a candlelight vigil Thursday night for the 28-year-old killed in an officer-involved shooting on Easter Sunday.
“That was my baby, he loved his mama, he loved his children, he loved everybody,” said LaShondra Wilson, Ray’s mother. “My baby would come and get in the bed with me and make it known that he loved his mama. [He would] call and check on me day-to-day if he didn’t see me… when I’m at work, he would call me and ask if I’m having a good day. I miss my baby. Justice is all I want, that’s it, for my baby.”
The vigil was held Thursday in the 200 block of 9th Ave. West, where Ray was killed and where family members, local activists and community members called for justice in Ray’s death.
“It’s a very unfortunate reality that another mother, another father has to bury their child with no explanation as to what happened on Easter,” said Eric Hall, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Birmingham. “It is one that we have endured far too many times and right now, for this mother, we are calling for answers. We have met with the police chief and deputy chief and they could not give us any answers because it is a preliminary investigation… the first thing we demanded from the chief and the city is that they be transparent as it relates to what happened that night.”
Ray’s father, Desmon M. Ray Sr. said the family has not been able to see or identify their son since the shooting and have not heard from police or city officials despite many requests.
“We don’t even know if this is our baby because we haven’t seen him or anything since Easter Sunday,” the father said.
Clarence Muhammad of the Birmingham Black Economic Alliance remembers Ray, Jr. as a child.
“His stepfather used to bring him to the mosque as a little boy and I also knew him as a man, he was always a kind, patient, smiling and personable person,” Muhammad said. “He was always an easygoing person… Allah says in the Holy Quran that if one life is lost, then you have killed a life of the whole world… this man’s life is precious. He had children, he had a mother, father and extended family who loved him and we are here today because we don’t want to see anymore Black lives killed. This is the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement… how could we allow this to happen? We’re not.”
Around 10:50 p.m. on April 4, the Birmingham 911 Communication Division received a call from a third party stating that two people were involved in a domestic disturbance inside of a vehicle traveling in north Birmingham.
Shortly after, officers saw the vehicle that matched the description in the 300 block of 9th Avenue West. Officers attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver refused to stop, police say. The vehicle then came to a rest in the 200 block of 9th Avenue West after colliding into a fence.
Police say that is when the driver exited the vehicle and confronted officers with a firearm. In return, an officer fired their weapon striking the suspect.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) is investigating the shooting, which is standard protocol for officer-involved shootings.
A funeral for Ray is scheduled for Saturday, April 17.