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The COVID-19 renter and homeowner struggle

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A new study offers Black Americans some valuable tips on how to avoid eviction after the devastating impact of the coronavirus

By Penny Dickerson

 Updated 
Eviction Notice
“We’ve been telling people: You need to pay the rent when you can,” says Mark Grandich, litigation director at Lone Star Legal Aid. “There’s going to be a day of reckoning.”

The reality of rent and the inability to pay landlords remains a dilemma for scores of Americans financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis that continues to hurl economic blows at low and middle-class residents, specifically people of color.

A resolution presented June 16 at a Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners meeting by the Honorable Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson amplified the dire straits of local residents. The resolution’s background stated that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Miami-Dade County was designated as one of the most cost-burdened jurisdictions for housing in the United States. Well over 50 percent of households in Miami-Dade County must pay 30 percent or more of their incomes for housing.

Edmonson’s resolute sought to direct the County’s attorney to create the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) for rental assistance grants to low- and moderate-income persons in Miami-Dade County that have lost income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; allocating $10 million of funds that the County has received pursuant to the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) for the ERAP.

Beyond the fancy acronyms and municipal language, the bottom line is that $10 million in funding was available for distribution in June but is now placed on hold. Edmonson’s resolution was blocked when Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, exercised his right to block any legislation submitted late for the day’s agenda. The candidate for County mayor reportedly called, “the process rushed” and said he had questions about how the rental assistance would be managed and the allocation of federal funds.

Commissioner Bovo’s measure to stall will hold rental-relief funding beyond the County’s June 30 eviction extension into July and the board’s next meeting. More than 15,000 local renters will be affected, many of whom are Black American renters in jeopardy of losing their households.

With some 50 million people renting and many perhaps incurring job or income misfortune because of the crisis, renters in 11 American states and Puerto Rico are among those at the greatest risk of enduring housing instability,  according to a new analysis by The Ascent.

A Motley Fool firm, The Ascent reviews financial products including credit cards, savings accounts, mortgages, and other items to help people make informed decisions on money matters.

The Ascent used government data to determine the areas with high jobless rates and where renters shell out a big percentage of their income. The report presents many reasons why such circumstances are a more bleak picture for renters than homeowners. Among them:

Renters could potentially be priced out by landlords who opt to raise the rent. In contrast, homeowners with fixed-rate mortgages won’t see their monthly payments rise.  And homeowners who have fully purchased houses can live there as long as they pay the taxes.

Renters can’t take advantage of seeking home-equity loans or using cash equity from refinancing to help make ends meet through a job loss. Those are options for homeowners, and people renting typically make less money than homeowners.

The report also examined reasons why renters are more defenseless to the pandemic economy. They’ve already spent at least 30% of their incomes on housing, consisting of some 47% of renters. They now earn less than 30% of their area’s median income than before the pandemic. The Ascent says that number at last count was 11 million. Another pitfall: many renters live in states with high unemployment rates or low unemployment benefits. They also work in industries suffering from great job losses stemming from the pandemic such as tourism and hospitality.

Tips For Renters

But renters may do well to consider taking actions to help keep their households.  Matt Frankel, a certified financial planner at The Ascent, offered tips to for renters potentially facing displacement.

What are steps renters can take to avoid the prospect of being evicted?

The best move you can make if you’re struggling is to talk to your landlord. As a rental property owner myself, I can tell you firsthand that most are quite sympathetic to tenants who have had their incomes disrupted. Maybe you can offer to get caught up over time or make some other arrangement. If you’ve been an otherwise great tenant, it isn’t uncommon for a landlord to allow you to apply your security deposit to your rent to help you stay current. But the key is starting the conversation.”

Why should renters take these steps now? What are the main downsides if they don’t?

If you’re falling behind on rent, the worst thing you can do is ignore the problem — even if you live in a state that has put a hold on evictions. That rent will come due eventually. Some people believe that a moratorium on evictions is the same thing as a temporary break from rent, but this is simply not the case.

According to Bloomberg.com, the end of state eviction moratoriums has exposed the limits of the protections for tenants at the local, state, and federal level. Under the CARES Act passed by Congress, for example, tenants who live in a property with a federally backed mortgage can’t be evicted. This protection supersedes any expiring state-level eviction moratorium — but only if the tenant knows that the CARES Act applies to their circumstances.

“Those tenants can’t be evicted — they can’t even get a notice of eviction until the end of July,” Marra says. “But there’s nothing put into place in many of these courts to enable a judge to routinely make sure that a landlord is testifying or swearing under oath that his property isn’t covered.”

“We’ve been telling people: You need to pay the rent when you can,” says Mark Grandich, litigation director at Lone Star Legal Aid. “There’s going to be a day of reckoning.”

The looming deluge of evictions involves complicated interactions with the justice system. For example, in Texas, landlords filed some 1,400 cases over the months during which the moratorium was in effect (many of which should not have been filed at all, under the CARES Act). During the interim, Texas only allowed evictions to proceed that involved illegal conduct — a valid concern for landlords, but also a concession to law enforcement, since jails were releasing prisoners and police were reluctant to make arrests.

Are there other options tenants facing financial hardship can take that you’d like to discuss? Would it make sense to open up a credit card or personal loan to pay rent?

If you have strong credit, a personal loan can be a useful tool for giving yourself financial flexibility during tough times, assuming you can afford the monthly payments. Some of the best personal lenders will make loans for as little as $2,000, so you don’t necessarily need to borrow a large amount of money to pursue this option. On the other hand, I generally discourage using credit cards to pay rent — not only do many landlords not take them, but interest rates tend to be far higher than with personal loans.

Blackenterprise and Bloomberg.com contributed to this report

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Savvy banker consoles and she reassures

OneUnited Bank COO talks pandemic anger

By Penny Dickerson

May 20, 2020 Updated May 26, 2020

Teri Williams
Don’t let anger turn to shame. Many of us are experiencing unemployment for the first time. The coronavirus is not something we did to ourselves.” Teri Williams, President and COO OneUnited Bank

Who is more credible to speak on the angst and woes the pandemic has thrust upon the black community than an MBA who holds a degree from Harvard and dually serves as president and COO of a Black-owned bank? Teri Williams has emerged as an apt voice of reason and is currently head “She-in-charge” of OneUnited Bank. For 30 years she has dedicated her life to an industry that is often commercially elusive and a far-reaching star for Black small businesses that strive to shine.

But undeniably, Williams embodies an approach to banking that is “about that Black” as demonstrated by the social media hashtags her financial institution promotes: #BankBlackWithPride; #BankBlackWithEase; BankBlackWithPurpose.

In her current capacity, the Ivy League graduate is responsible for the implementation of the bank’s strategic initiatives, as well as day-to-day operations which include retail branches, marketing, compliance, lending, information technology, customer support, legal, and human resources.

Her bragging rights run deep as she also graduated with distinction from Brown University, earning a bachelor of arts degree, and has garnered expertise from premier institutions such as Bank of America and American Express, where she was one of the youngest vice presidents. Her Magic City ties include serving as a board member of the 79th Street Corridor initiative and Williams , too, is bookish. She authored the savvy financial literacy book for urban youth titled, I Got Bank! What My Granddad Taught Me About Money and conducts financial literacy workshops across the country.

The aforementioned mouthful is readily balanced by an equally full heart. Williams reminds us that May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. While she is a finance juggernaut, Williams remains abundantly aware that scores beyond millions of Black Americans have suffered financially to such a degree, it has left them angry —and rightfully so.

She gives volume to an array of questions that fuel the emotion that leads to high blood pressure, anxiety, and sometimes simply, a sullen state of mind. Why wasn’t America better prepared? Why don’t we have access to more tests? Where’s the vaccine? And why isn’t there better healthcare available, particularly in the Black community?

The pandemic has disproportionately affected Blacks with regard to testing positive for the virus, hospitalizations and death. Financially, the demographic leads the population in furloughs, layoffs and downsizing. Labels aside, entirely too many Black people are unemployed.

According to an April 28 report in the Guardian, “…even before Covid-19 hit the US in full force and as the overall unemployment rate hit record lows, black Americans had an unemployment rate that was almost twice the national rate. In February 2020 when the overall unemployment rate was 3.5%, a 50-year-low, the black unemployment rate was 5.8%. The white unemployment rate was 3.1%.

“The usual relationship that we see between the national unemployment rate and the black unemployment rate is typically really close to a two to one,” said Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity and the economy.

“Whatever is being projected for the national unemployment rate, in most instances, we expect to see something close to twice that for black Americans.”

According to Williams, anger is an understandable emotion, but anger won’t pay the bills. She instead encourages a sense of empowerment as cities across America begin to reopen and employers call for a return to workplace normalcy. The following represent four points Williams encourages the Black community to do now, with the last being the most important.

1. Check on your stimulus check. The IRS has already started sending out economic stimulus payments authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. If you have not received your stimulus money, here are 4 reasons why and what you should do about it. You may receive your stimulus money in the next round.

2. File unemployment. Nationally, almost 3 million new jobless claims were filed last week due primarily to the coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed roughly 36.5 million Americans into the unemployment lines since the start of March.

Unemployment insurance is a federal-state program, so the weekly payment will vary by state. According to CNBC “How Much Unemployment Will I Get? That Depends on Your State”, some states are more generous than others with Mississippi paying the lowest, up to $213 per week, and Massachusetts the highest, $555 per week. The length of time also varies with Florida as an example only paying 12 weeks, while many other states pay 26 weeks. However, the federal government has added $600 per week for all states until July 31st and extended benefits for 13 weeks beyond the state maximums.

But Floridians inhabit unique woes that give rise to anger as the state has scrambled to deal with claims backlogs and problems with the CONNECT online unemployment system.

According to a May 14 report by News Service Florida, the state had nearly 222,000 first-time unemployment claims filed last week, the first week of the state’s slow economic reopening under Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to numbers posted Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor. According to the federal agency, an estimated 221,905 claims followed 174,860 during the prior week, and the state peaked with 506,670 new claims during the week ending April 18.

Contact your creditors immediately. Do not put your head in the sand when it comes to your bills. Yes, it’s stressful. However, putting off this important task can also increase your stress for no good reason. Creditors know they cannot get water out of a stone! Push creditors to develop a loan modification plan to meet your current financial circumstances. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate payment terms to meet your family’s needs. There are many new mortgage relief and forbearance programs by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other mortgage providers. Contact your lender to find the best solution for you and your family.

3. Don’t let anger turn to shame! Many of us are experiencing unemployment for the first time in our lives. The Coronavirus pandemic is not something we did to ourselves and our families, but something we are struggling through as a community. If you or a loved one lost your job, have not received your stimulus money, nor your unemployment check or simply need help making ends meet, reach out to a local food bank, church, or other helping organization in your community. We’re sure you’ve given to many others throughout your life. Now is your time to receive.

Penny Dickerson Managing Editor

Penny Dickerson is a journalist joining The Miami Times following an Africa sojourn and 10-year freelance career in newspaper and magazine. She earned her master of fine arts in creative writing from Lesley University and her bachelor of arts in Journalism from Temple University.

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The Tragic Suicide of Bryce Gowdy

Could Bryce Gowdy have been saved?

The late Bryce Gowdy was a star wide-receiver, Georgia Tech signee and “professed momma’s boy.”

    • Updated 

Read the full edition of The Miami Times www.miamitimesonline.com

The bright future of Bryce Gowdy was darkened by his own demise on Monday, Dec.30.

A 17-year-old young man of promise, Bryce committed suicide and left behind remnants of a life wrought with mental health challenges, a family in financial disarray and homelessness.

In the aftermath, reports flourished that a Black male laid down his burdens and body on a Florida railroad track and was struck by an oncoming train. A national outcry reverberated as Bryce was one child too many claimed by systemic neglect.

The latter serves as a backdrop to Bryce being a celebrated wide receiver poised to join Georgia Tech as a lauded recruit. Now, he will not be a Yellow Jacket at Billy Dodd stadium this season, another South Florida mother mourns a dead son and a community is charged with providing preventive measures to save more youth.Bryce Gowdy

Bryce completed classes early at Deerfield Beach High School to join his future collegiate team. Georgia Tech offered the following statement on the football program’s website:

“Our entire Georgia Tech football family is devastated by the news of Bryce’s passing,” Georgia Tech football head coach Geoff Collins said. “Bryce was an outstanding young man with a very bright future. He was a great friend to many, including many of our current and incoming team members. On behalf of our coaches, players, staff and families, we offer our deepest condolences to Bryce’s mother, Shibbon, and his brothers, Brisai and Brayden, as well as the rest of his family members, his teammates and coaches at Deerfield Beach High School, and his many friends. Bryce and his family will always be a part of the Georgia Tech football family.”

Broward County Public School district is the sixth-largest school in the nation and the second-largest in the state of Florida enrolling nearly 270,000 students. Bryce was one of those thousands and a definitive Black life who mattered. His mother referred to him as a “professed momma’s boy” and sentiments shared by friends on social media refer to him as “handsome with a contagious smile.”

Superintendent Robert W. Runcie and chair of the school board chair Donna Korn released a statement of their own Jan. 2 , days after Bryce’s death. It echoed reports that “Bryce was an outstanding individual in every way – on the football field and in life…”

Deerfield High language arts teacher Tonyshia Fletcher posted the following

Jan. 02:

Dear Brycer,

It has been difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that you’re gone. I keep replaying our last moments in my mind & it literally breaks my heart. Had I known that it would have been our last conversation I would’ve stayed and talked with you longer.”

A candlelight vigil was held at Deerfield Thursday, Jan. 02. A funeral is scheduled to take place in the school auditorium, Saturday, Jan. 11.

Bryce attended school as a homeless student who intermittently lived in a car with his mother and two siblings. The night of his death they checked into a local hotel. The space and time between their socioeconomic circumstances cast a shadow on whether Broward County Public Schools offered the appropriate services to adequately support Bryce.

Carole Mitchell, district homeless education liaison coordinator for the Homeless Education Assistance Resource Team (HEART), told The Miami Times that the program knew of Bryce.

“Bryce had been identified and registered in our system,” said Mitchell, who deferred further comment to her supervisor, Dr. Laurel Thompson.

HEART SHOULD HELP

Responsibility for HEART includes upholding the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 2001, which was amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. Federal laws protect the educational rights of students (PreK-12) who have lost housing and are living in transition, a page on the Broward School system’s web site reads. “The ultimate goal is to remove barriers that might prevent students experiencing homelessness from enrolling, attending and succeeding in school.”

HEART can provide transportation coordination for students to remain in the last school they attended, access to school supplies and uniform items, free school meals, referrals school social work services, family counseling, medical, dental and mental health referrals.

Family counseling and mental health referrals may have been the most important components to the resource team reaching its “ultimate goal” and removing barriers for Bryce and his mother, Shibbon Winelle. It is unclear if they received such services.

Winelle reportedly said that both she and Bryce were experiencing socioeconomic distress and suffered “demons” and Bryce displayed irrational behavior in his final days. “He was talking about signs and symbols,” said Winelle.

“I been begging for help for months,” said Winelle who refers to herself on social media as “Love Win,” a mother musician and mystic. She is an orchestral level string bassist who was once gainfully employed.

Details of her family’s downward spiral are blurred, and the timeline preceding Bryce’s death is ominous beginning with Winelle’s Facebook posts:

Dec. 29 at 10:49 p.m.:

“This birthday I thought I had everything. My handsome Suns were happy and healthy and my parents and family were a strong part of my life, I had a corporate job paying $50K a year with benefits, great girlfriends, a happy 2 and a half year situationship with a man. This was only 3 birthdays ago…”

The post then morphs to a bleak status:

This year I spent my birthday in my car with my Suns. My youngest is with friends, while my oldest stayed by my side all day and still by my side now tonight while we wait for my middle sun to get off work. No time with friends because no money or gas to waste, no parents or family because a year and a half earlier I addressed childhood traumas that caused a rift between us…”

Winelle reportedly sent Bryce to the car to fetch her favorite blanket. Barefoot and carrying no wallet, he never returned.

By 4 a.m. Monday, Dec. 30, his body was found near train tracks. Tuesday, Broward County medical examiners ruled his death a suicide.

MENTAL HEALTH SOCIAL STIGMA

Kisha N. Bazelais is a psychologist at the Miami-Dade Counseling Center where she is one of a few African-Americans on staff. She encourages Blacks to seek help when their lives start to unravel.

“Barriers to African-Americans receiving counseling exist because of [social] stigmas, even when sought in a private setting,” she said. “I also manage my own private practice, and 70% of my client-base are people of color. Having the same ethnicity as your mental health professional is often what gets people in the door. People relate better to someone who they believe knows their culture, looks like them, and understands systemic issues.”

The example of Winelle’s family illustrates numerous Black families and students who suffer in silence. All do not end in death. More can be saved.

Rosalind Osgood is a Broward County school board member who is taking steps toward bridging communication between students and parents.

“A conversation has to take place in the African-American community. We’re silent about mental health, and it’s beginning to drastically impact our children,” said Osgood. “As a school board member and a community leader, I have to do something to have this conversation start from a community perspective…the adults in the community don’t understand.”

A “Black History Mental Health Symposium” sponsored by The Links, Fort Lauderdale chapter and Broward College will take place at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 18 at Old Dillard Museum, 1019 NW Fourth St., Fort Lauderdale. Latasha Russell, a clinical psychologist, will moderate.

“I have several kids who will be on the panel. A couple have attempted suicide,” said Osgood. “This is gonna begin the discussion.”

Bryce represented an unfortunate suicide trend.

According to data published in the Journal of Pediatrics October 2019, suicide attempts among Black children and teenagers have increased by 73% since 1991. Further, suicide is the second leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S., but over the period studied, suicide attempts decreased among teens in every ethnic group except for Black Americans.

“This group always reported much higher rates of suicide attempts than any other group except for Native American Alaskan Indians since 1991,” said Sean Joe, a professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis and one of the study’s authors.

“So now we’re seeing a stronger, significant increase – not only for males but also for Black females … the rise in suicide attempts among Black adolescents is marked by higher levels of hopelessness, increased stigma around mental health issues and lack of access to mental health care,” said Joe.

National Suicide Prevention

Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

 Chat  Official Website

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TRIFECTA: Chamber of Commerce businesses unite

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UniFirst Corp. partners with Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and various industries to provide 15,000 protective face masks

Penny Dickerson

    •  

Jun 17, 2020

MASK.jpg
 

Phase II of Florida’s reopening welcomes an array of businesses to work toward regaining economic stability following the COVID-19 pandemic. CDC mandates and protocols remain in place, the most prominent of which is the required wearing of masks by patrons and consumers who seek to return to their favorite restaurants, and retailers, seek beauty and hygiene services and/or simply get back to work.

UniFirst Corporation is partnering with the Broward County, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Chambers of Commerce. On Thursday, June 11 at 11:00 a.m., the North American leader in the supply and servicing of uniform and workwear programs donated 15,000 masks being donated in front of the UniFirst building at 500 SW 13th Terrace in Pompano Beach. UniFirst trucks unloaded the boxes and handed them to area Chamber representatives. The measure is part of a company-wide initiative to support the small business community.

As state shutdowns are lifted and the economy begins to reopen, many small business owners, the everyday heroes on the front lines of the recovery, are struggling to source and provide their staff with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) required to meet government guidelines. The Chambers of Commerce will have the opportunity to divide and share the donated masks with local companies of their choosing. The donation is part of a company-wide initiative to support business revitalization in UniFirst markets around the country, prioritizing regions where resources are not as readily available.

Chamber leaders spearheading the initiative included Alex Dukeshire, General Manager, UniFirst; G. Eric Knowles, President and CEO, Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce; Shaheewa Jarrett Gelin, Esq., President, Broward County Black Chamber of Commerce and Laurel Baker, CEO of Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce

UniFirst Corporation (NYSE: UNF) is headquartered in Wilmington, Mass., and together with its subsidiaries, the company also provides first aid and safety products and manages specialized garment programs for the cleanroom and nuclear industries. UniFirst manufactures its own branded workwear, protective clothing, and floorcare products; and with 260 service locations, over 300,000 customer locations, and 14,000-plus employee Team Partners, the company outfits nearly 2 million workers each business day. For more information, contact UniFirst at 888.399.6167 or visit UniFirst.com.

Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce

The Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1974 and leads the way towards long-term business prosperity, by providing advocacy, networking, resources, and training to men and women in business in South Florida.  The Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce is excited to be considered the “go to” organization for small minority businesses in South Florida. The Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce strives to provide a world of business opportunities for its members.

The Broward County Black Chamber of Commerce

The Broward County Black Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization dedicated to the economic development and growth of Black businesses and organizations in Broward County, Florida. The Chamber is the principal advocate and preeminent leader in fostering economic success for Black business owners and the Black business community in Broward County. Visit https://browardcountyblackchamberofcommerce.com/ to learn more.

Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce

Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1929, the Chamber’s mission is to represent the local business community in support of the free enterprise system through programming, advocacy, and education. Business and professional people work together with the Chamber to ensure the best interests of the community. Civic-minded individuals work in a variety of fields, support numerous charitable endeavors and encourage the development of leadership for future generations. https://www.palmbeachchamber.com/

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American Bar Association combats Poverty

miami times

Plagued by poverty

 Penny Dickerson Special to The Miami Times | 10/14/2015, 2 p.m.

http://miamitimesonline.com/news/2015/oct/14/plagued-poverty/

A Miami youth whose life had been paralyzed by poverty and the criminal justice system spoke openly regarding her plight: while stealing food to feed both herself and a two-year-old sibling, she was charged and arrested for theft. With no income or support system, she was left hopeless and unable to retain legal counsel or sufficiently advocate for herself.

Previously homeless adults who had been thrust in and out of foster care through their formative years shared similar struggles. Most of their short life span had been dedicated to navigating complex systems for survival—daily battles to simply exist as respectable citizens in society.
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Murders over Money: Bethune Cookman Tragedy

Miami Times Front PageMurders over money

Tragedy leaves gunman, two Bethune-Cookman students dead

Penny Dickerson | 9/23/2015, 2 p.m.
York Zed Bodden

“Murders Over Money” Miami Times Online

DAYTONA BEACH — Money meant everything to York Zed Bodden. Human life meant nothing.

The convicted felon from Miami had dollar signs etched on his chest when Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers arrested him on Friday. He was the sole suspect in the murder of two Bethune-Cookman University students and attempted murder of a third. Bodden was also the rogue wheel in the trio’s roommate set-up. They offered him $200 to leave. But that wasn’t enough—Bodden insisted on $400.

Following a domestic dispute that morphed into a violent fist fight, the 27-year-old felon left the Carolina Club apartment in Daytona Beach and retrieved what police believed was a 9mm or .380 mini-revolver. Within minutes, he returned to the scene and shot in the head Timesha “A’lisa” Carswell, 21, and Diona McDonald, 19. Both were struck at point blank range. He then pumped six bullets into the face and jugular vein of Michael Parham, their 21-year-old male roommate who remains critically injured and clings to life.

Bodden fled the crime-scene and managed to evade a statewide manhunt. At 1 p.m. on Friday, Federal law enforcement agents arrested him at a North Miami apartment. The next day, his short-lived life ended. Prisoner #150020036 was found hanged in the K-28 section of the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami-Dade.

The three shooting victims were music majors from Michigan. McDonald is a Detroit native and Carswell and Parham are from the neighboring town of Inkster. Carswell was dating Bodden who authorities confirmed had been living with a Daytona Beach State College student just one week earlier. A criminal motivated by money, Bodden’s victims lived honorable lives that were the polar opposite:

“There were no signs of drugs or (drug) money anywhere in the house or in the student’s cars,” Chief Michael Chitwood of the City of Daytona Beach Police told the Miami Times. “Every one of those students were good young men and good young women who’ve never been in trouble with the law. They were good students and well respected at Cookman, so that’s what makes this really difficult. These are kids that had a brilliant future. These are kids that would be the future of what America is all about,” he added.

DOMESTIC DISPUTE

The bedrock of communication is rooted in conflict-resolution, but for college roommates who realize, “things weren’t working out,” even a voice of reason wasn’t enough to intervene.

“Micah and Timesha felt it wasn’t going to be pretty when they asked him [Bodden] to move out, so they asked their classmate Sidney Washington of Oklahoma if he could come over and lend some support,” said Chitwood.

“And they were right. When they asked him to leave, a big fight erupts between Micah and our shooter. It got so violent that Mr. Washington armed himself with a knife and you can see in the back room that somebody got shoved through the wall because all the sheet rock was busted, so it was a physical fist fight first.”

 A conciliatory agreement ended the brawl and Bodden went as far as to shake hands with both men. But none of the students could have been prepared for the fatal events that followed when Bodden returned. And police were not prepared to discover a crime scene that revealed how the students ran for their lives.

One female victim was found dead at a closet entrance. The other was on a bedroom floor. Parham was initially shot in a closet, but made his way to the kitchen floor. Washington tried to overtake the shooter, but ultimately dodged death by jumping through a first-floor window. He escaped harm.

FELONS WITH GUNSBCU Campus from Bethune Blvd

The tragedy took place off-campus and almost five miles away from Bethune-Cookman. The university is an institutional jewel that is rich in Southern heritage and seeks to develop students who enter to learn and depart to serve. Carsell and McDonald both departed before their time and at the hands of a felon who never should have been in possession of a gun.

These brutal murders mark the ninth gun-related crime at Bethune-Cookman in the past seven months. Previously, nine students were wounded—this time two students and a shooter are dead. Amplified is Florida’s existence as a fledging “Gunshine state” that continues to search for law enforcement and criminal justice solutions to curb gun-related crimes.

“How do you stop somebody, especially in our society that is so pro-gun everything? You can’t stop ‘em from getting a gun. Especially here in Daytona Beach,” said Chief Chitwood. “All you gotta do is drive into a parking lot and see an F-150 flying the rebel flag and you can rest assure there’s a gun in there. He’s got his bumper sticker screaming ‘I love the NRA’ and ‘Long live the second amendment,’ and that’s what the bad guys break into. They get guns that way.”

BODDEN’S RAP SHEET

York Bodden

York Bodden may have died in a damp county jail, but he left a legacy of felony arrests and convictions that began eight years ago and continued in three-year increments.

• 10/26/2007 False Imprisonment.

• 10/26/2007 Felony Battery

• 04/16/2010 Burglary of an occupied dwelling

• 04/16/2010 Burglary of an unoccupied structure

• 09/17/2015 Capital Murder in the first-degree and aggravated assault.

• 09/19/2015 Felony Suicide

Had he not hanged himself, Chitwood’s recommendation would have been life in prison.

“Part of me is a death penalty advocate and part of me isn’t. He should (have) sat in that jail cell and rot the rest of his life away thinking of what he did to those families,” said Chitwood. “Whatever it was to be, his days of being free and able to hurt anyone else should be done….life in prison may even be too good.”

At press time, the Miami Times was unable to contact Bodden’s next of kin for comment.

Meanwhile Walter Clark, president and CEO of Special Consultant for African-American Government Employees (SCAAGE), is questioning why an inmate in transit ended up dying in police custody.

“The prisoners are not being supervised properly,” Clark said. A similar situation happened to an inmate that was in transit at the jail. They are not equipped to take care of unruly prisoners.”

EXEMPLARY YOUNG WOMEN

Both McDonald and Carswell are B-CU music majors who were active in the university choir and described as “kindhearted girls.” They were exemplary students who both had a parent precede them in death. McDonald’s mother died of breast cancer just months ago and Carswell’s father succumbed to cancer when she was three.

“I hope to God, in my lifetime, I never know the pain that those parents know because I don’t know if I would be able to live in the shoes they’re in, especially Mr. McDonald,” shared Chitwood, whose own daughter is a college senior at a separate institution. He finally allowed her to move off campus this year, but after these shootings, he regrets that decision.

Prayer vigils were held on campus the day following the students’ tragic deaths. The Miami Times spoke with Ira Johnson, the uncle and pastor of Carswell. It was his family who raised his deceased niece after her father [Tim] Carswell died:

“She always called me “Uncle Ira J” and the whole family called her “Lisa.” She was always smiling and such a great spirit,” Johnson shared. “ We have a huge family, but Lisa was the heart and soul of the family. She was an encourager. After the Charleston shootings, she went on Facebook and lifted up other cousins by saying, ‘Don’t worry Cuz, it’s gonna be alright. She would often call and say ‘I love you’ for no reason,” Johnson added.

BETHUNE COOKMAN STATEMENT The office of president Edison O. Jackson released the following response last week:

“It is with saddened hearts that Bethune-Cookman University announces the loss of two students and the critical injury of a former student. The students were victims of a fatal domestic violence incident that occurred at a privately-owned apartment complex in Daytona Beach, Florida early Thursday afternoon.

Bethune-Cookman University’s first priority is the safety and wellbeing of the students. We will continue to communicate and educate the BCU family about domestic violence and general conflict resolution.

Our Department of Public Safety is readily available to assist all students who are in need of conflict mediation and security services. In addition, personnel in Counseling Services are available for grief counseling. This is a very unfortunate incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the families, loved ones and fellow classmates of these students.”

Surviving student Parham remains in intensive care at Halifax Regional Hospital. Chitwood is expected to launch a campaign in the coming days for donations in the form of gift cards to restaurants that will be extended to Parham’s family. They arrived from Michigan and have remained at his bedside since last Thursday.

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