Spiritual and community leaders called for peace Thursday in Atlantic City as friends and family gathered to honor a teen shot dead by resort police during a chase last week.
Derreck Mack, 18, died Dec. 17 after he was shot by police in the area of Stanley Holmes Village.
Another man, Terry Davis, 24, surrendered to police and was arrested. Witness accounts vary on whether Mack was surrendering or trying to draw a weapon when he was shot. The police officer, whose name has not been released, told investigators he felt his life was in danger.
At the Shiloh Temple Apostolic Church on Thursday morning, the discussion was about how to keep everyone safe.
“He should have lived as long as he wanted,” Bishop Billal Parrish said. “He had a choice here as well.”
According to the Atlantic County prosecutor, a gun was found by Mack’s body and is being tested. The teen had already served a juvenile sentence for gun possession and was indicted in October for a gun charge that was pending at the time of his death. Records show he was at the Atlantic County Criminal Courthouse for an appearance in that case just hours before he died.
Parrish said he wanted to speak candidly to the youth gathered for the service. He said he knew the ways of the street and cautioned against retribution, which would only result in more funerals.
“There is a time for everyone,” he said. “Don’t hurry it.”
City Councilman Marty Small, a one-time neighbor who has known Mack’s family for years, assured those gathered that there would be an investigation “by several outside agencies” so there is no conflict. The investigation is intended to determine whether the officer was justified in shooting Mack.
Councilman Steve Moore, who represents the ward where the shooting occurred, also spoke, and a letter Mayor Lorenzo Langford wrote to the family expressing sorrow for the loss was read during the service.
The shooting led to several protests, including at least one outside Langford’s home. Marte King, who has led most of the protests, also put out a call for those who have alleged police brutality to attend Thursday night’s City Council meeting.
A few dozen residents — including relatives of Mack — spoke out at the meeting against how officers treat the public. They said officers have assaulted and spoke disrespectfully to residents, and called for changes to improve community relations.
Multiple residents asked for new initiatives such as sensitivity and diversity training for officers, and a board to oversee police actions so there is greater accountability for them.
King, who is from Camden and now lives in Galloway Township, became an activist after writing two books during a 9½-year prison term he served for the armed robbery of an Egg Harbor Township gas station that led to a three-hour chase, ending with road spikes in Pennsylvania. He was released in February 2010, and now does paid seminars and speaking engagements.
The protests he has led, however, were what kept Mack’s paternal grandmother, Louvinia Nixon, from attending Thursday’s service.
“I would never permit or tolerate my family to act as hysterical thugs,” Nixon, 72, wrote in a letter to a Press of Atlantic City reporter. “These people are only interested in having their pictures and their rants on camera and in the paper.”
In a telephone interview Wednesday, the Pleasantville woman said she just hopes the truth comes out, and worries for her older grandson, Raymond Mack, 19, who was jailed after punching a sergeant at the scene of the shooting.
“He was only trying to get to his baby brother,” she said. “I hope the judge takes that into consideration.”
Raymond Mack also had cocaine on him at the time of his arrest, police said. Nixon said she knew about the charge but did not ask her grandson about the drugs when she saw him Wednesday at the viewing.
At the funeral, community activist Steve Young did not focus on the police shooting, instead calling for people to come together in love. He then led the congregation in a moment of shared hugs.
Those who knew Mack — or “D Dirt” as he was best known — remembered him as a loving person who cared deeply for his friends and family.
A letter written my his mother, Ruby Conde, and read by Mary Parrish told of how much she missed her “last born, my first gone.” She could be heard sobbing as the words were read and how the family would make sure his nieces and nephew wouldn’t forget “Uncle Derk-Derk.”
“I can’t leave my baby,” she screamed after the coffin was placed in the hearse in front of the church. “I can’t leave him. I want to go with him.”
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