I don’t cry a lot. I never have. But I’ve been crying for days and I can’t seem to stop. My husbands’ teenage cousin was shot and killed during a domestic violence dispute on April 22, 2012. The label domestic dispute doesn’t seem to do this incident justice. It was a hostage situation, and he sacrificed his life for his mom’s. His murderer was her ex-boyfriend.
Derwin Watts, Jr. also known as DJ was a star athlete and an honor roll student. He was tall with a thin build and a quirky sense of humor. I got to know DJ early in my relationship with my husband because he was one year younger than my baby brother. They visited us together during the summer. I know his laugh, I know his temperament and I know he loved his mother. I know for a fact, he was a good kid with a bright future. I know his accuser and I love his mother.
I will not pretend to know all the details of that horrible evening but according to Wavy TV-10 what we do know is that the ex-boyfriend entered my cousin’s home uninvited late at night and used furniture to barricade them in before they knew he was inside. He then waited for his first victim to enter the hallway on his way to the restroom and shot him in the chest. In a fumbled attempt to get away, the perpetrator aimed the gun at DJ’s mother and he jumped in front of her to protect her and was shot. He died a short time later at a nearby hospital.
So my heart hurts. It’s heavy with grief and sorrow and I can’t seem to stop crying. A Chocolate Mother has lost a son and I am sorry. DJ wasn’t the only one killed that night. His mothers’ friend Michael Temple also died. I am sure the specific facts of this case will continue to unravel, but one thing we know is that domestic violence is to blame. This is the second family member within a year to lose their life in a domestic dispute. On August 4, 2011, our cousin DeAnna Bazemore, was also tragically killed.
Domestic violence is a sensitive subject with me. My father was a physically abusive alcoholic for years. And although my parents finally divorced and my daddy has been sober for over 20 years, I am still haunted by the ghost of my domestic violence past that once landed us in a battered women’s shelter. I am all too familiar with the fear and anxiety of going home after school and the bruises and the fights that become second nature. And according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence I am not alone, one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
Statistically I was twice as likely as those that didn’t share my experience to end up in an abusive relationship. I was plagued by fear that I would end up continuing the cycle and was determined to rise above it. And I did, and yet incidence like what happened to DJ continue to rub off the scabs that cover my old scars.
And so I continue to cry. I shed tears for the life of a young man that didn’t deserve to die. My eyes water for a mother who has lost a child. I cry for a family that may never overcome the wounds caused by domestic violence and I cringe at the thought of a vicious cycle continuing to take root.
During my daughter’s bedtime prayer she asked God to give DJ a “BIG” pair of wings. I trust her request will be granted and I know he’s one of the brightest stars in the sky. Rest in Peace little cousin and may your demise not be in vain.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and ready for help, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233.