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United protest stuns James’ adopted mom

Published: 
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Geraldine Baptiste speaks about Akel ‘Christmas’ James, whom she raised, during an interview at her home yesterday. Inset, a makeshift shrine in honour of James stood along Basilon Street yesterday.

The woman who raised police shooting victim Akel “Christmas” James as a child admits he got out of hand in his later years, but says she was stunned the entire community came out to protest over his killing by the police.

Geraldine Baptiste was brought to tears in her Basilon Street home yesterday, as she recalled the kind of man James was to her. Baptiste, 93, said James’ mother brought him to her as a baby one day and said she would be back for him. This never occurred and James remained with her until he was a teenager, although his mother was still in the picture. She said she gave him the nickname Christmas.

“I used to have him next to me as a baby and people would pass and tell me, ‘tanty, you have a baby’ and I would say yes to them that he is my Christmas,” Baptiste said.

Baptiste said James would go and come between her house and his mother’s house up to the time of his untimely death.

Asked if she ever heard James was a “snatcher,” as police officers claimed he was, Baptiste said “yes,” but said although she knew he was led astray, she did not know what sort of questionable activities he was involved in. She said he was in prison at one time but could say what he was charged for.

“He started to get out of hand and would always leave from by me. When he came out of prison he didn’t say what he was in for and I couldn’t ask. But when I tried to tell him about the right way and try to correct him, he wouldn’t want to hear me, he would just walk away,” Baptiste said.

“You see some people would say that the parents does know about their children and they does cover up for them, but sometimes the parents doesn’t even know. I am a perfect example of that. I didn’t know what Christmas was about and would involve himself in.”

Baptiste described James, 25, as someone who would have taken up her little change (money), but added that he was never rude to her.

Baptiste said James’ mother and sister came and told her what had happened to him on Monday. She said she was shocked, but was more shocked when she heard people all over blocking the road and protesting his death.

“I tell myself well he had to be something big around for people from all around to block the road. I don’t know. I really heard the gunshots and say well it’s a wake up call but didn’t know that Christmas died as a result,” Baptiste said.

Asked what advice she had for the youth in the area, Baptiste replied: “Oh my God! Girl, talking to them is a waste of time. You talking to them but they don’t hear you.”

At the Forensic Science Centre, St James, yesterday morning, a relative of James described him as a “cool and jolly person.” She said he was the father of a three-year-old girl.

Giving an account of what happened between James and the police, the relative, who did not want to be identified, claimed James was made to lie on the ground where he was shot several times.

“When the police knocked on the door they said ‘police, police’! Christmas opened the door. He got down on the ground and told them they could go ahead and search the area because he did not have anything illegal there.

“A police officer put his boot on him and shot him multiple times. Another man was present at the time and he ran for his life. Police shot at him too,” the relative claimed.

“I see it every day. Police coming and locking up innocent people, holding them for 72 hours and releasing them. All that not called for.”

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