On October 17th, 2014 Robert Edward Torrence Sr. was shot while standing in the front yard of his home; his life slipped away a few hours later and he was no longer Robert Torrence he was homicide victim 117. Before October 17th, 2014 Robert who was often called King or Tr33z, was more than just a number; he was a father of 4 amazing children, a brother and a son, and he was also my bestfriend. He was not a thug or a drug dealer nor was he the intended target; but the streets seem to take no prisoners and show no mercy.
This is how many of the stories of those who have lost their lives to gun violence are told, victims of circumstance. Before it was our young black men who were dying each night, but more recently we have seen more and more young women being murdered. Our community is in serious distress, but what can we do?
I remember when I first heard the story of the “Man on the billboard” a little over a month ago. Daniel “Boone” Fuller vowed that he would spend his days on top of a billboard located at Sarah and Washington in St. Louis City until the city was seven days murder free.
[Crazy right!? Same thing I said] It’s no secret that our city has had an extremely violent year, reaching the low hundreds early in the summer; one of the most violent years in quite sometime. Having always been an advocate of non-violence I was immediately intrigue by “Uncle Fuller” and the motivation behind his protest.
On what was supposed to be the seventh day of no violence in the St. Louis city limits I took a walk down the street to congratulate “Uncle Fuller” as he is so loving called by people in the community. It had been nearly a month since he vowed to not come down until the city was seven days murder free [a very hot month at that]. Only a few people were gathered around the man on the billboard so I was able to learn more about this pioneer for change in our community. Originally from Minnesota, Fuller has lived in St. Louis on and off since 1980; he is also the owner of not only the billboard on Sarah and Washington which he inhabited for nearly thirty days but thirty others around the city. Tired of the black on black crime and lack of investigation by police into these murders he decided to challenge the city. Prior to August 2nd, the longest the city had gone murder free was four days. ” There’s a hundred dead black brothers and sisters in North St. Louis whose murders have never been solved. And the parents can’t get any answers from the detectives and they become cold cases in fifteen minutes. Why does the major case squad go over to a beauty shop where an elderly owner was murdered in Belleville and stay there for months until the perpetrator is caught and brought to justice. Hundreds of black victims have never gotten justice where is the major case squad in those cases?! Why don’t they come out?” Expressing his frustrations Fuller spoke openly about the lack of investigation into the killings of African-Americans, calling out the major case squad and other law enforcement officials. “You’ve got murderers walking around, it’s not cool to get away with murder! It’s not cool to get away with murder! You’ve got murders walking around living and eating when these people’s loved ones are dead in the ground! Give me a break!” I was able to spend a few intimate moments with Uncle Fuller without the cameras just to thank him for what he was doing for those like Robbie who no longer have a voice.
Unfortunately, we did not make the official seven-day mark, with two early morning murders happening. However, there is still triumph having gone as long as we did when we were averaging two and three murders a night for nearly a month. I drove by later in the afternoon only to see that Uncle Fuller had begun packing up shop and was leaving the area. His desire to make a change in a community and in a population that is not his own speaks volumes. I was starting to get used to seeing him each day on my commute to and from work, but his absence does not mean the fight for peace stops. Each day we [African-Americans] speak about how “Black Lives Matter” and how true this is. But until we [African-Americans] learn to respect ourselves and each other, stop killing one another and learn to come together no other race of people will value our lives.
Be kind to one another.