My family and I are sorry to miss the demonstration today, but today is the anniversary of what happened to my son Julian, two years ago. Today is a very painful day for us and one that we need to spend privately, supporting each other through.
When I saw the photograph of Freddie Gray lying in hospital, I thought “that is Julian, that is my son”. I felt sick to my stomach as it brought back so many memories of first seeing Julian two years ago. I want the world to see this photograph of Julian immediately after he was hospitalized so that it is clear to everybody that what happened in Baltimore has also happened here.
My son was a 20 year old athlete studying sports science at university of Bedfordshire. On Sunday 5th May 2013, Julian was alone, outside Elements Nightclub in Bedford, we believe he was asking for a refund after he and his friends had been asked to leave the club. Security guards grabbed Julian and passed him to police officers who were outside the club.
Initially all my family and I knew, was that Julian had suffered a severe spinal injury, brain injury and cardiac arrest following this contact with the police. Just like Freddie Gray, the injuries themselves began to give us some idea as to what happened. Julian’s injury is ‘hangman’s fracture’. It is the kind of injury associated with the sudden and violent pulling backwards of the head, usually when there is a counter force against the body.
Julian has been left paralysed and in a vegetative state. He needs 24-hour care for as long as he lives.
At first the officers who arrested Freddie Gray said they did not use any force against Freddie; thankfully witness evidence and footage has exposed this lie. Initially Bedford police officers told my family and I that Julian had been “chatty” in the back of the police van but here too witnesses have contradicted police evidence to say that Julian was dragged unconscious into the police van.
We need to know who is responsible for breaking Julian’s neck, but we also need to know why none of the officers present appear to have offered Julian basic first aid when it was clear that there was something very wrong with him. We believe that the police officers showed total disregard for his life, just as they did with Freddie.
I am thinking of Freddie’s mother today and what I know she is going through, how she must be feeling at this moment. She has completely lost her son, my son is still alive, but it can not be said that he is really living.
It took two weeks before there was an explanation of what happened to Freddie Gray and for criminal charges to be brought against US police officers. Our family has been waiting for two years for the IPCC to complete its investigation. Our questions remain unanswered – we are still waiting to be told what happened to Julian that night and which police officers are responsible. There is no closure for us and there is no question of justice until we at least know the truth about what happened.
Our family sends our condolences to Freddie Gray’s family; our thoughts are with them as they set out on that long difficult path to justice for Freddie’s death; it may be shorter than the one we face but it is so painful and difficult and one which we all need the support of others to help us get through.
Watch the video footage of Julian’s friend here.