Grieving relatives wonder why cops shot their loved ones.
Every night the rapid fire of gunshots cuts through Queen Carney's dreams. In Southwest Philadelphia, a community tormented by drugs and violence, the sound of gunfire is hardly rare. But for Carney it's inescapable.
Her son, Edward Shawn "Boo" Pickens, was recently shot and killed by a Philadelphia police officer, and Carney's mind often wanders to gunshots and the thought of Boo falling to the ground. It's a vision that plays over and over again in her head, whether Carney is awake or asleep.
"I just want to ball up in a closet and wither away," says Carney. "I can't imagine anything being more painful than this. I lost a son, a friend, a little brother. It tears my heart out. He was my pride and joy."
Carney was listening to the noon news when she heard that a man had been killed the night before in her Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood. Immediately, Carney called Boo to make sure he was all right and to find out if he knew the victim, but his phone just rang.
Frustrated, she decided to pay him a visit. But she didn't get past her own front door. Her brother, who never came over to her fiance's house, was standing outside. Carney knew something was seriously wrong.
Her brother had come to tell her that her only child was dead. Carney screamed until she passed out on the living room floor. She would lie awake that night wondering why her son was killed.
On Sunday night, Aug. 3, police say Pickens was selling drugs on the 5200 block of Warrington Avenue. When narcotics officers tried to arrest him, police say Pickens fired shots at them. But, says Carney, witnesses claim Pickens was simply walking down the street, unarmed, on his way home from a neighborhood corner store.
Carney says police found no gun or drugs at the scene, but police say that a gun was recovered and that the case is under investigation. Carney, for her part, thinks the evidence is clear--her son was murdered.
What's undisputed about that night is that around 10:15 p.m., narcotics officer John Ramirez shot Pickens once in the head, and about an hour later, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Pickens was pronounced dead.
"The guy that killed my son is a murderer and thief," she says. "He murdered my child and stole my grandchildren's father. What are they supposed to do? They're going to remember that their father got killed for nothing."
Ever since her son was a baby, Carney affectionately called him "Boo." "He was nice and fat," says Carney, remembering Boo as an infant. "He had fat cheeks and fat thighs, and we just started calling him 'Boo,'" she says with a faint giggle.
Carney had Boo when she was 16, raising him in the same Southwest Philadelphia house that she grew up in. Carney admits that being a single parent was hard, and that the two practically grew up together. But she contends that she was a good mother. Her family, neighbors and Boo's father constantly told her so.
"My son never gave me a day's trouble," says Carney, later adding that she had to spank Boo only once when he was 8 years old. Carney says her "evil eye" then became discipline enough.
"I never had to go talk to a teacher, never had to stop a fight--nothing. He was a dedicated son."
At 31, Pickens, 5-foot-8 with a thin build, was low-key, but also known for his sense of humor and what some called his "Kool-Aid" smile.
He was the neighborhood barber and a skillful contractor, and doted on his mother and his three children, ages 14, 12 and 9.
"My son lived with me from birth to 25. I know my son's character," says Carney. "I'd put my hand on a stack of Bibles. He wasn't selling drugs. He hated drugs. He despised drugs. He called them poison."
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