April 10, 2023 | By: Kathy Waterman
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and the University of North Florida, Applied Journalism class.
“My son was born at 7 pounds 10 ounces; he was the baby that I wanted,” said his mother, Natasha Christopher. “We had an amazing relationship. Akeal was my best friend, and I was always there for him as a mom. We did everything together.”
But Natasha only had Akeal in her life for a few short years.
In 2012, Akeal Christopher was 14 when he was shot. Just days later, on his 15th birthday, he was taken off life support.
The dream that Akeal had to drive trains and work for the transit department one day was taken from him. The young man who saw the world as a good place was taken from his mother.
His case is still unsolved.
“Akeal was a great human being,” Natasha said. “He wanted everyone to be as happy as he was. Life was full of ups and downs, but Akeal always saw everything as good in the world and always had a smile on his face.”
On June 27, 2012, Akeal was walking home from a graduation party in Bushwick, New York, when he was shot in the back of the head.
Akeal’s mother recalls getting a phone call that night but hanging up, because she thought there was no way that he would be out late at night. After the second phone call, she gathered her two younger sons and headed towards the hospital where Akeal had been taken.
She remembers walking into the emergency room to see relatives — Akeal’s grandmother, uncle and other immediate family members — and being frightened by the frantic looks on their faces. She remembers seeing her son fight for his life, the sounds of the machine and shouting.
“I saw all this blood on the floor and the curtains were drawn and for one quick second, the drapes opened,” she said. “I saw doctors resuscitate him and he was coding.”
For the next two weeks, Christopher did not leave her son’s side. “I spent 14 days in the hospital. I turned the waiting room area into a bedroom. I slept on the hospital floor, I was given sheets and we made beds,” she said. “All I knew, I wasn’t leaving the hospital.”
Eventually, she had to.
Preparing for the memorial service wasn’t easy for his mother, “I thank God for my family and friends that everyone stepped in and stepped up and helped,” she said. “I could barely do anything. I was there, but I was not there.”
There is no silver lining in a situation like this — but Christopher has tried to build on her pain, helping families who have experienced their own loss due to gun violence through organizations such as Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety and the 67th Precinct Clergy Council also known as the God Squad has given Natasha the opportunity to help other families like hers affected by homicide.
“To do what I’m doing, you have to have some type of empathy for people,” she said, “What I do now, I never thought that I would find my purpose, I love helping these families when they are transitioning into this new life.”
Her goal is to make sure no one else has to go through the pain she endured.
“Black and Brown Boys were being killed and no one seemed to care,” she said. “I wanted to make sure what I went through with Akeal that no mother had to go through that type of pain. I want to help mothers go through the pain of losing a loved one. I know what I went through with losing my son, I needed to be there for other families.”
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Akeal Christopher, please call the NYPD, 83rd Precinct Detective Squad at (718)574-1796.
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