BELIZE CITY, Mon. July 6, 2015–As Kremandala employees began arriving at their workplace this morning, a somber mood began enveloping the compound, a heavy sense of wretchedness that progressively grew more intense, as word began to spread that one of our colleagues, one of our shining stars who had quickly become a pillar in so many aspects of what we do, had been tragically murdered.
Kareem Jabbor Clarke, 27, a prolific, dedicated Amandala journalist and a constant, reassuring presence on the Kremandala compound, was gunned down around 1:00 o’clock this morning at the corner of Vernon and Lakeview Streets – in a scenario that was ironically similar, in the most bitter of ways, to incidents he himself had described with his unmistakable, elegant prose in so many of the articles he had written which covered tragic shootings on the Southside. Clark had been shot multiple times and apparently died on the spot.
The gunshots punctured the silence a stone’s throw away from the Ghost Town Crips neighborhood, where a police checkpoint has been set up to stem the surge of inter-gang rivalry in a neighborhood that has been incessantly plagued by gun violence and death.
Strangely enough, reports to us are that when police arrived at the scene, there were just a few people at the scene of the crime, not the crowd of residents of the area, who normally gather at almost every murder scene in the city.
A police report on the incident said Clarke had been shot in the left side of the forehead, back of the head, abdomen, right upper back and middle of the back.
The report said, “Clarke was riding his bicycle on Vernon Street heading to the Vernon Street Bridge, when he was approached by a man who fired several shots in his direction, causing the injuries.”
Police said that they have recovered eight .9mm expended shells from the scene.
The police’s early investigation has not so far uncovered a motive for the shooting.
At a police press briefing this morning, Superintendent of Police Hilberto Romero, who heads the Belize City Crime Investigation Branch (CIB), told reporters that Clarke “had gone to visit someone in the area when he was targeted.”
Apparently, Clarke was returning from that visit when he was gunned down.
The Kremandala organization has lost a member of our family who exemplified the best of what Kremandala stands for – someone of humble beginnings who retained his passion for his family and community, but who lit up the darkness of the Southside, where he both worked and lived, with his astounding diligence, his abundant talent, his passion and dedication – and his refusal to be sucked into the uniformed cynicism and savagery surrounding him. Rarely in today’s professional world is talent matched with humility and diligence and consistency. He covered a wide range of major national news objectively and with unusual flare for a young reporter – all while attempting to further his education and working toward his own personal career goals.
Kareem was versatile in the range of stories he covered as an Amandala reporter, but his value to the Kremandala organization also extended to his weekend work for KREM TV and KREM Radio, for which he was a regular reader of the evening news. He was talented and he was ubiquitous, covering stories in practically every part of the country.
He was a gem of a worker. You could call him at any hour, on any day and he would be up to the task. There was no task too large, or too hard – no matter the time or place. He could write, and he was pure joy to work with – while always, always with his trademark radiant smile.
This morning as a group of reporters arrived at Clark’s mother’s residence, a small group of young women were outside speaking to and consoling his mother, Julia Clarke, 58.
Clarke’s sister, Melanie Young, 41, said that the family learned of Kareem’s death when a neighbor from the nearby pharmacy called his family to tell them that he had been shot.
When Julia Clarke asked the neighbor in what part of his body he got shot, the neighbor replied that he was shot in the head and he was dead.
“I stayed right on the bed; I couldn’t move,” Julia said.
Young said, “Kareem was my mom’s rock. He didn’t have any children, but he loved his nieces and nephews. You could have asked Kareem for anything.”
Young said that before Kareem began working in the media, every Sunday he took his nieces and nephews to the BTL Park.
His mother said that he was not a young man who got into trouble: “Everyone loves Kareem,” she said.
Julia said her son would never tell them if he had a problem. “You would have to learn it from others,” she said.
The grieving mother said she last saw her son after 8:00 o’clock on Sunday night. He had gone to her house for his Sunday dinner.
“He ate his food around the table and afterwards, he gone down the steps, and that was the last I see him,” Julia said sorrowfully.
Before he left, he told his mother he would bring some clothes for her to wash for him. She said she told him, “Okay, inna di week a wan wash them.”
“I even tell am, I have wan lee light bill fu pay, yu know,” she said.
He replied, “I wan work Saturday and so I might collect for that on Tuesday, and I wan bring the money fu you,” she recalled.
From all accounts, Kareem was very dedicated to his mother and family, while at the same time he was looking forward to completing his sixth form education.
“My brother wanted to go back to school,” Young said.
His mother said he wanted to further his studies so that he could have become a computer technician, because he used to work at Fultec, and that’s where he learned about computers.
“He was no problem at all; he liked to laugh, he is always smiling,” his mother said.
His family said they knew that the motive for his murder was not robbery because his phone and other possessions were still on him when he was found.
“Somebody took my brother away for foolishness,” Young said.
Asked what she would like to say to Kareem’s killer, Melanie said that her mother is a Christian and would leave everything to God.
“Dem teck wi mi breadwinner,” Julia said as the interview came to an end.
Amandala editor, Russell Vellos, said that Kareem had a bright future, and that it was terrible that his future was cut short so early and violently.
“We will feel his loss; he will be hard to replace. He was intelligent; a good young man and a loyal worker. Through his work, he had made many friends in the media, and along with us, they will all miss him. All we can say at this time is that we hope that he will rest in peace.”
Kremandala has issued a press release on Kareem’s death, which is published elsewhere in this issue.