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Meeting Keilani Childress

First blog of the Forced Trajectory Project finally launches on the first of January, 2018.

It's been many years that I've felt the need to blog about Forced Trajectory Project (FTP) but every time I started, I couldn't finish. I attribute this deep writer's block to not being able to overcome the overwhelming emotions that come with documenting these cases, of which I've been doing since 2009. But I'm finally doing it, and as they say often in yoga, it's never too late.

Today was a heavy, bittersweet and memorable day. A few days ago I heard from Jackie Lawrence, the mother of police murder victim, Keith Childress, Jr., who was the last known person killed by police in 2015. She has been featured on two FTP panels, one which can be found in the "FTP Panels" section of the site, and the other was covered by UNLV's student news broadcast, Studio G which can be found in the "Links" section of the site. Jackie let me know that she would be in town over the weekend and that she wanted me to photograph Keilani, Keith's third and youngest daughter, at the murder site.

Before Keith was killed he had found out that he would be having another daughter. She wasn't born until 6 months after his death. Despite the fact that she has never met her father, I was amazed by how attuned she was to her surrounding and circumstance. As Jackie introduced her to the site where her father took his last breath, she pointed several times to the driveway where his body had laid, and said, "Dada." She walked around, looked up and down and all around, and began playing with the balloons the family had brought to memorialize Keith.

The purpose of FTP has always been to bring a lens to the impact of police violence. This is why documenting the families, and particularly the children, of police murder victims is so important because if we as a society are to ever resolve the issue of police violence, we'll need to look closely at the rippling affects it has on our communities beginning with those most directly affected. Jackie expressed to me that she wants photos for Keilani so that when she's older she'll have them as she'll never have any memories or photos of her being with her father.

With the many families that I've worked with, how to handle the situation with children has never been easy. But most would choose to document and archive despite how painful it is for youth to witness because families feel it is necessary to stand in their truth of what's happened to their loved one, especially when faced with a state that refuses to acknowledge it: that they have taken the life of someone who was loved and that their loss has affected them in a permanent way, more often than not having grave intergenerational consequences.

As 2017 turns into 2018, the energy of youthful and pure Keilani poignantly introduces the next phase of FTP: We will be launching the Las Vegas version of FTP as we begin to interview, document, archive and produce the stories of local police violence cases here in Las Vegas.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Keith Childress, Jr. friends and family, the Oscar Grant friends and family (killed on Jan. 1, 9 years ago), and all families impacted by state-sanctioned violence. As we move through this heavy issue of police murder, let light and love guide the way for a powerful 2018.

Happy New Year.

In the photo:

Jacqueline Lawrence, the mother of Keith Childress, Jr., 23, who was killed by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on December 31, 2015, in the drive way of this family home off Desert Inn and Cimarron, poses with her granddaughter, Keilani Childress, who was not yet born at the time of her father's death. She is now a year and a half and for the commemoration of the life of her father, Jackie has brought his daughter to the place of his death for the first time.

"When we got here at the scene there was blood in every one of these [drive way] cracks, which told me he was basically bleeding to death. From what we know, he had no medical attention, he just laid here on the ground handcuffed. As he was dying they decided to go ahead and release their dogs on him, and bite him, tear his backside up. But this is the very spot my son took his last breath. This is the second year. Today I'm here to celebrate my son's life. 23 great years I got to spend with him. We just want to all come together here and rejoice the time we did get to spend with him." - Jacqueline Lawrence, mother of Keith Childress, Jr.

Keith Childress, Jr., was falsely identified as an attempted murder fugitive. He was unarmed and held a cell phone in his hand which LVMPD claim they believed was a gun. LVMPD also claimed they shot at him 5 times but witnesses state they heard many more shots than 5 and bullet holes ripped through the family home garage doors and the side of the house. While the garage doors have been replaced, some bullet holes can still be found on the side of the house.

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