Coronavirus aside–it’s going to be super awkward for one family this year during Thanksgiving dinner–and not for the usual reasons (and relatives) we think of. In what might be a first for the “Thanksgiving with Black Families” social media hashtag, one family will have to go the extra mile to figure out how to talk around, over, and under the fact that one member allegedly had another shot over Black Lives Matter and is now suing.
I first heard about this case from renowned trial attorney Carl Douglas. Mr. Douglas was so impressed with 23-year-old filmmaker Jamal Shakir that he would go on and on about what a well-spoken and impressive young man he is and that in all of his decades of practicing law, Jamal in just a short time had managed to make it to the top of Carl’s favorite client list.
For his part, Jamal Shakir had never participated in a protest before. But as he sat in his sixth-floor apartment in downtown Los Angeles on May 29 playing on his Sony PlayStation, he couldn’t help but feel pulsation from the energy on the streets below him where thousands were marching over the police shooting death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Born six years after the 1992 Los Angeles civil unrest over the verdicts in the Rodney King trial, like many Black men his age, at 23, Jamal had already been heavily impacted by the U.S. criminal justice system. The system claimed both of his parents during the height of the war on drugs when he was just three months old. Labeling his father a drug kingpin and leader of the notorious Rollin 90’s Neighborhood Crip gang and his mother a co-conspirator, both were given lengthy prison sentences causing Jamal to be raised by his grandmother and aunt. His father, Jamal Shakir Sr., also known as “Donut,” escaped a death sentence and received 16 life sentences, to be followed by an additional nine consecutive life sentences for allegedly orchestrating nine murders along with other criminal conduct while running a criminal enterprise the Feds said stretched from Los Angeles to Tennessee. His mother, Lameisha Anderson, is due to be released from prison 2021.
So the fight to reform America’s criminal justice system from the inside out is real for Jamal, and he has even more of a vested interest than some–his parents.
Across the country in Atlanta–just 40 miles from where Jamal majored in Exercise Science and Digital Creative Media and Film at LaGrange University–similar protests were sparked by the news of the death of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, who was shot and killed by police during an arrest. Friends of Jamal had shared videos of the protests taking place in Atlanta with him on social media.
Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, Jamal couldn’t resist the urge to join the protestors.
He decided to get up, and in true Gen Z fashion, with two phones in hand–one for recording and one to keep talking to his friends on Facetime–he went downstairs where he joined the protest’s tail end marching north down Spring Street.
He could hear the loud chants of “Black lives, they matter here! Black lives, they matter here!” by the protestors as they marched in formation with fists in the air.
Jamal was in amazement of the sheer number of people in the street marching in support of people like him–Black males railroaded by a criminal justice system and being killed by the police at alarming numbers.
When Jamal made it outside, the only notable police presence was the helicopter circling above that almost drowned out the protesters’ voices. He immediately felt a euphoric sense of freedom and purpose joining the crowd and being a filmmaker, wanted to document every moment of it on video so he started to make his way up to the front.
Within minutes of him joining the crowd, he and the other protestors were confronted by Los Angeles police officers. Police officers that Jamal noticed were mostly Latinx and white with only one visible Black officer.
Admittedly, Jamal had never been to a protest before. That said, he decided to try and engage the Black officer, something seasoned Black Lives Matter protestors might have cautioned against.
“I’m still documenting on my phone everything that’s going on, so when I see him I tell him he’s literally the only Black officer out here. I asked him if he understood why everyone’s out here right now, and how he could be in a uniform at a time like this when he knows what the reason is for everyone being out here.”
The officer doesn’t respond.
Jamal starts to walk back and forth down Spring street adjacent to the skirmish line with his camera recording.
Police officers started to try and contain the large crowd by surrounding them.
“I don’t know if it was a fire extinguisher, if it was tear gas–what it was. It was just like a huge cloud of smoke came up and everyone took off running back down Spring Street towards 6th Street away from the smoke. As they’re doing that, the police officers are still trying to push people back. I’m super far back at this point now so I’m taking still pictures of the cloud of smoke and all of the orange lights and everything that’s going on.”
Jamal decided to move back to the skirmish line where he saw another Black officer, which is where this story goes left.
“I’m like–damn he looks familiar. I just see his body type. They only have their names on the tops of their helmets so I can’t see his name. And I was like, that looks like Eric. Once I get in front of him I’m like, that’s Eric.”
Eric, or Officer Anderson, is Jamal’s uncle–his imprisoned mother’s brother.
“I asked Eric if he was serious and he just stared at me for a second and then told me to go home. With no facial expression, no nothing, he told me to go home.”
Jamal says his uncle didn’t know he lives on 6th and Spring Streets because they don’t have the type of relationship where they speak often.
“My grandfather had him outside of the family so when he was introduced to our family when he was in high school, it was like, okay you’re family. But we don’t have that type of relationship to where we call and check on each other.”
Jamal said he last interacted with his uncle in January 2019 when he was shooting the pilot for his television series “Land of No Pity.” The series is based on a novel written by his stepmother, Toni Shakir, and loosely based on the lives, struggles and will to survive of the children who grew up to become the founders and leaders of the Rolling 90’s Neighborhood Crip gang–one of South Central’s Los Angeles’ most ruthless street gangs.
“Instead of hiring a retired police officer and giving them the money, I asked my uncle if he’d do it. My grandpa put us on three-way and Eric agreed to do it so I hired him for the days I shot my tv series.”
Jamal says his uncle kept telling him to go home to which Jamal pushed back on and asked his uncle how he could be out here on the wrong side of the issue as a Black man.
“So at this point, my uncle has his baton and there’s a guy immediately to his right who has a gun–and I wasn’t sure what type of gun it was. My uncle was pointing his baton to tell the officers who to aim for. They were firing and following his orders.”
Jamal tried to engage his uncle by telling him that his ancestors were rolling over in their grave right now and he asked him what he thought his father–Jamal’s grandfather–would think about his role in the protest.
Jamal says that’s when his uncle pointed his baton at him and directed one of the officers to shoot him with one of the several nonlethal projectiles but that the officer initially hesitated because he overheard the conversation and knew they were related to each other. But the hesitation lasted momentarily because within seconds the officer shot Jamal in his hand knocking his cellphone that was still recording to the ground.
“My phone falls. I can’t feel my hand at all at this point. I bend down to pick up my phone and as soon as I bend down he fires another shot and shoots me in the butt.”
That was enough to make Jamal take off running.
“Not one shot, but two shots. I was definitely targeted.”
He kept running because he continued to hear shots and didn’t know if he was being chased by one of the officers at his uncle’s request.
While trying to make it back to his apartment building, Jamal is bleeding heavily.
“My blood is just dripping. My jacket is full of blood. My shoes are full of blood. I didn’t want to look down at it because that’s when my mental stuff would kick in so I’m like maybe if I don’t look at it, it’s not that bad.”
At the same time, his phone was still recording live on Instagram where viewers were encouraging him to go to a hospital. One viewer, the mother of the lead actor in his television series “Land of No Pity,” was nearby and offered to come and take him to the hospital.
By this time the epicenter of the protest had moved to the intersection in front of his apartment building on 6th and Spring Streets and getting across the street looked nearly impossible, let alone to a hospital.
“All traffic has stopped. They’re breaking Starbucks’ windows.”
After walking around the protest using adjacent streets, Jamal said they finally made it to the car and went to the hospital.
Along the way, his friend’s mother peppered him with questions about his uncle because she had watched the whole interaction live on Instagram and was concerned he’d send officers after him which could put them all in danger.
So just to be on the safe side, because his uncle did have him shot after all, Jamal used an alias when he arrived at USC Keck Medical Center.
Over a dozen stitches later along with a trip to the burn center, Jamal finally left the hospital the next morning at dawn with a long road to recovery ahead of him.
Since then the reaction from his family has been mixed with some choosing to avoid or ignore what happened all together and others wanting answers from Jamal’s uncle Eric.
To this day, Jamal says his uncle Eric has avoided him and has refused to talk about what happened with family members.
Kelviana James, Jamal’s cousin, watched the events of that evening unfold live on Instagram from Alabama and couldn’t believe what she saw.
“I called my mom in Georgia but she didn’t answer so I called my grandma who also lives in Georgia. We called my grandpa in Los Angeles, Eric’s father. We were just trying to figure out what was going on with Jamal. We couldn’t reach Jamal because I guess he was in the middle of trying to get away. When we finally talked to him and we found out it was Eric, my family couldn’t believe it. My grandpa was trying to figure out why he would do that to his grandson knowing that’s his family member.”
Kelviana says that they tried to have a family meeting with Eric but that he didn’t respond.
“I felt like he didn’t care because he didn’t reach out to any of us or my grandpa to say what happened or anything.”
Kelviana said she used to follow her uncle on social media but not anymore.
“I am not even sure what’s going on in his head or if he even cares to reach out.”
She added that Eric has also been absent from their monthly family video chats.
Jamal’s godmother, Kristen Wright Matthews, grew up with his mother in South Los Angeles.
“His mother and I met when we were two years old and were best friends through college. We started school right in South Los Angeles off of Century and Normandie, then we went to St, Frances Cabrini Catholic School on Imperial and Normandie. She went to Washington High School and I went to St. Mary’s Academy but then in the 11th grade she came over to St. Mary’s and after that we both went to Cal State Northridge.”
Kristen was in up late after traveling from Atlanta to Charleston, South Carolina to visit her parents.
“I was just laying in the bed and on Instagram it said Jamal Shakir was live. I always check on him, that’s my baby. And so I was like let me see what Jamal is doing and when I tell you almost had a heart attack—and then the bullets. I was a wreck, I couldn’t sleep. I was just up the rest of the night until he finally texted me back and let me know he was at the hospital.”
She says she doesn’t know Eric.
“Honestly I don’t know that I ever knew that Jamal’s grandfather had other kids. I vaguely remember but I think I automatically assumed it was on Jamal’s father’s side. His uncle, I mean, I just couldn’t imagine that you know someone’s uncle, if he knew him would do that. But I saw it.”
She says that Jamal has always been a good kid and that if Eric knows Jamal then he knows that.
He’s always been nice, respectful and smart which to me is extraordinary considering how his life started with him losing both of his parents to the criminal justice system at such a young age. I am extremely proud.”
And as if a police officer uncle having his own nephew shot during a Black Lives Matter protest isn’t enough for an episode of “Iyanla: Fix My Life,” the plot thickens.
Jamal has decided to sue his uncle and the Los Angeles Police Department because he wants to expose his uncle and he says officers like him who put being a police officer before the wellbeing of their own people and family.
To help him with his lawsuit Jamal has managed to convince one of America’s top trial attorneys to take his case–Carl Douglas.
“That Eric Anderson would direct that his own nephew be shot twice even with rubber bullets, though he was peacefully protesting, should send chills through us all,” said Douglas. “It speaks volumes about how far we still have to go as citizens of this great city before seeing true reform.”
He continued, “Never in my 40 years as a civil rights lawyer have I ever encountered so stark a tragedy as a police officer using excessive force against his own blood. It sickens me, but at the same time, the case of Jamal Shakir empowers me to keep fighting for true justice and against the warrior culture that pervades the LAPD which must be removed before there will ever be true reform. This ‘warrior’ culture pits us versus them, leads to tanks in the streets, and so brainwashes a police officer that it causes him to turn on his own blood.”
Jamal’s decision to sue will come as a surprise to most of his family, he says.
“What Uncle Eric did to me wasn’t right.”
And Jamal isn’t alone. Over 50 people and organizations including Black Lives Matter Los Angeles have filed lawsuits or claims–the latter being a precursor to filing a lawsuit–related to LAPD’s handling of the protests.
Complaints range from breasts being groped to being surrounded, or “kettled,” by police officers, arrested, and left in handcuffs for hours to being shot with hard projectiles in the face, chest, hands, legs, and even the testicles.
Since the LAPD (like most law enforcement agencies) has a time-honored tradition of repeating the same 8 words whenever asked about a lawsuit–I skipped the obligatory ask and waste of my time and can tell you that the LAPD does not comment on pending litigation.
For now, Jamal is trying to get on with his life while dealing with the aftereffects of that fateful encounter with his uncle. His buttocks still bear the imprint and scar from being shot with a rubber bullet. Three fingers on his right hand still aren’t working properly making it extremely difficult for him to write or type and he’ll be going to physical therapy for the near future.
There’s been no word from “Uncle Eric” on if he plans on making an appearance at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner this year. If he does, his having his own nephew shot at a Black Lives Matter protest and causing his nephew to sue him will surely be the elephant in the room and make for one interesting generational conversation. You know what they say about Thanksgiving with Black families—the best food ever and there’s never a dull moment.
A shorter version of this story was published on LAMag.com. You can read it here.