WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — “Here is another one of him and his little boy,” Linda Cockerham said as she held up her iPhone to show off pictures of her son Jalen.
“He was such a goofball,” she laughed as she swiped to a video of Jalen dancing and singing to the 90s R&B hit “Return of the Mac” by Mark Morrison.
It was 85 degrees outside, but Linda and her friend were sitting outside their family house in Winston-Salem. The sound and dust from the neighbor’s lawnmower made it hard to hear and breathe, but they were embracing it all to brag about Jalen. “Here is him and his boy playing with toys,” Linda explained as she tried to swipe to another video. The sweat from her fingers stuck to the phone.
At 23, Jalen had two young boys. A 4-year-old, who idolized his dad and the musical artist he was trying to be. His 4-month-old baby boy can only be described as enjoying it every time his daddy changed his diapers.
Jalen was described as a man who had made some mistakes in the past but was now settling into the man he wanted to be. “He was really finding his way,” Linda. said. “And I could see that change in him in the last couple of months.”
But whatever change he was hoping to make for himself, for his family or for the world was cut down by a series of bullets at 10:57 p.m. on May 18.
Police responded to reports that multiple people had been shot at a cook out at 4252 Cody Drive. Jalen, Fred Hawkins III and four other people were hit by a barrage of bullets. Jalen died at the scene.
Police announced that this shooting was the third in a long string of shootings in the city done by two rival groups.
A week after Jalen and Hawkins’ death, police say they are still calling on witnesses to help bring justice to these young men.
“I hope they see him every time they go to sleep,” Linda said as she wiped the tears that started to pour out of her eyes. The sound of her lawn chair creaked as she shook her head in disgust.
“We want to talk about black on black crime, or Black Lives Matter. But we out here killing each other. That’s the most weird thing to me. How could you kill somebody else that looks like you,” she said.
Winston-Salem police believed that in Jalen’s killing, and the two other shootings in the city, semi-automatic pistols, semi-automatic rifles and revolvers were used. The message from Linda, a mother who lost a son because someone with hate had a gun illegally, “We got to put the guns down.” She said,
“We’re killing each other’s sons, and brothers, uncles and fathers.”
In Jalen’s case, it was both a father and a son. “That’s the most hurtful part is that he’s leaving his two kids behind … involuntarily.”
Linda held up her phone to show images of Jalen kissing his 4-month-old’ head.
“My son didn’t die in vain,” Linda said, with determination in her voice. “I’m going to make sure these kids know who their father was. I’m going to make sure everyone knows who he was.”
Linda continued to scroll through photos of her son as the humidity began to rise with the late morning sun. But, she didn’t care. She was talking about her one and only son.
Authorities are offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of Jalen and Hawkins’ killer.
Authorities ask that anyone with information regarding these incidents contact the Winston-Salem Police Department at (336) 773-7700 or Crime Stoppers at (336) 727-2800. CrimeStoppers may also be contacted via “Crime Stoppers of Winston-Salem” on Facebook.