A Father Searches for Hope After Newark Attacks

Four college friends were shot, execution style, in Newark, N.J. Three died from their wounds, while a fourth woman remains hospitalized. Friends and family are calling the crimes senseless. James Harvey, father of victim Dashon Harvey, who died, talks about his son, the violence and how he's coping with the loss.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Dashon Harvey would have started his junior year at Delaware State University this fall. Instead, he and two other friends, Iofemi Hightower and Terrance Aeriel, were buried this weekend, the victims of an execution-style shooting in Newark schoolyard. A fourth friend, 19-year-old Natasha Aeriel, survived what seems to have started as a robbery and has been helping police wrap the case.

By all accounts, Dashon and the other victims were the type of kids you'd be proud to call your own - academically driven, considerate, upbeat. Their deaths have shocked and galvanized the city that had already been struggling with violence.

In a moment we're going to speak to a Philadelphia emergency room surgeon who see similarities between the war on the streets and the war overseas. But first we're going to speak with Dashon's father, James Harvey. He joins us from his home in Newark.

Mr. Harvey, thanks for joining us. And I don't think I have the words to tell you how sorry I - we all are for your loss.

Mr. JAMES HARVEY (Father of Dashon Harvey): Thank you. Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: I don't think I have the words to describe my sorrow at your loss. I am so sorry.

Mr. HARVEY: Yes. Thank you.

MARTIN: It seems that this terrible crime has sparked something in Newark and around the country. Has that been a comfort to in any way?

Mr. HARVEY: What's been comforting to me, I'm glad you spoke on that, because I need to get the chance to thank everyone for all the love and support they've been giving. So many people has been calling, has been giving me cards and letters of - my dear condolences. And they'd leave no return addresses and therefore, thank you. I want to thank everyone if I can't get a chance to send you a thank-you card.

MARTIN: Why do you think that is, that so many people who you don't even know have reached out to you? What do you think it is they're feeling?

Mr. HARVEY: Because he was that type of person. I didn't know how many people's lives he has touched as well. And it truly makes me proud as the father to have a son like that. That made me proud to send them off in a way that - in the fashion that I did. He had a glorious funeral. It was very lovely. And the fact that he's buried right next to his grandfather is a blessing.

MARTIN: A number of people including Newark Mayor Corey Booker have expressed how proud they are of you, that you've been very outspoken in the wake of this terrible situation. And you have been very outspoken about what you feel is behind the killings, which is the lack of parenting for one thing. What do you hope will happen by your speaking out?

Mr. HARVEY: What I hope would happen is that, see, I don't feel as though as failed my child, by no means. I did everything I was supposed to do as a dad. I was there for him. I helped him through the tough times. I got in with his education. I was there step one to step 10 that we had to go. When he stumbled, I was there to pick him up. And for society, I believe society failed my child. And it hurts.

What I want is for our justice system, okay, because me reading the background of these individuals that are not from here, from this country, and for them to be involved in such other crimes with weapons and child molestation as I hear, and for them to be still out on bail in this society walking around in our city, knowing that they are destruction, a bad element to our city and they're still walking around, what does that tell you of our justice system, okay?

But I do believe in it. Okay, although the wheels of justice turn, they turn very slowly. But in this case, I think we will full steam ahead.

MARTIN: What do you make of the fact that a grown man was arrested along with the two teenagers, and that the police are looking for another adult man along with another teenager? What do you make of that?

Mr. HARVEY: And that's what it becomes. You have teenagers, 15, 14-year-olds, hanging out with 28, 24, 30-year-olds at that late-night hour committing disruptive things, harming people. They were armed; they were ready to do some harm to someone that night. It just happened to be my son and his three friends. They were out there to harm anyone they could that night.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, I'm speaking with James Harvey, the father of Dashon Harvey, one of the young people murdered in Newark last week.

Does the fact that the accused are all Latino mean anything to you?

Mr. HARVEY: No, because it doesn't actually mean anything to me because we have all ethnic backgrounds with kids that are in trouble. So I'm not going to blame it on a race relation thing, okay? Because me myself is not a racist, and the odds were against as a black man to bring my son up in such a positive light. So I'm not going to say it's because of your ethnic background that you were all evil.

MARTIN: But you're angry about the fact that at least one of the people arrested so far has a prior record for some very serious offenses.

Mr. HARVEY: And I'm not surprised that they all don't have a record for serious offenses. They all were motivated to do and guided by these individuals to do bad things like that. And this starts from home; I truly believe that. These 15-year-olds should never be influenced by these guys to be out there doing crimes as such as they were doing, hanging with a loaded weapon, walking around with a knife or a machete, harming and robbing people at 15 years old. And then step up to murder? Murder not just one individual, three. No, excuse me, four. They tried to kill all four of these - excuse me.

They tried to kill all four of these children. We have children killing children.

MARTIN: If you...

Mr. HARVEY: They were all children, killing each other needlessly. And what does that tell for our society? What are we made of? And I can't see - excuse me, I'm sorry, but...

MARTIN: That's okay. Take your time. Take your time.

Mr. HARVEY: We have to get back our streets, and it starts at home.

MARTIN: Mr. Harvey, you had said earlier that the odds were against you as a black man being able to raise your son to do the right thing and to...

Mr. HARVEY: Yes.

MARTIN: ...and to keep him motivated. And so can I ask you what kinds of things did you do to keep Dashon on the right track?

Mr. HARVEY: The kind of things that I was there for him. I would take him to the movies, little simple - it don't have to be nothing immaculate. Take him to the movies, spend some time, take him out to eat. We loved to eat at the Olive Garden restaurant. I took him to Great Adventure on numerous occasions. We -every year, we'd get season passes. He went to places that I have never been, okay? I put my life aside so he can go to Disney World. He went to Belize, Mexico; he toured the world. At such a young age for him to do the things that I've never done was a blessing for me to help him and guide him that way. He was the inspiration to me as a father to do what's right in society.

MARTIN: Mr. Harvey, I hope it's not painful to ask you this. But I know for myself as a parent that this is my greatest fear. That something will happen, that I've done everything right...

Mr. HARVEY: Right.

MARTIN: ...and that somebody who hasn't or that something will happen to my children at the hands of someone who's very angry for whatever reason...

Mr. HARVEY: Yes.

MARTIN: ...is affected by society. And I guess I just wondered when Dashon was growing up, was that something you worried about? Did you worry that this day would come?

Mr. HARVEY: No. By no means, I never saw it coming. I never saw such a negative thing coming out of this guy's upbringing, because I guarded him the right way. I knew who he hanged with. I knew his friends. They were all part of this. When you show love to your kids and others, not just some - if he had a friend with him, if I was going to the store, you want to come? You want to go out to eat? I took his friends with - his friends know me. Okay? He talked about me to his friends, and they came up to me and approach me and told me that. They said, I have to talk to my dad before I can go here, before I can go there. And that -when they was telling me these things, it hurt me, too. And when - to learn that he put on MySpace that one of his true heroes was Martin Luther King, but least of all, my dad. And that truly touched my heart when he condoned and (unintelligible) that to me.

MARTIN: Mr. Harvey, in the last minutes that we have, how do you want Dashon to be remembered? What do you want his legacy to be?

Mr. HARVEY: As a turning point (unintelligible) to other children. That you can make - even though his life was such brutally interrupted and his friends -that you can be a positive asset to this society and move on from here. If it does anything but change a child's life to say, you know what? I'm going to try to do right. I'm going to change my life around and do what these people haven't had the chance to do. What they started, I'm going to finish. And that's what we need in our society and young children today.

MARTIN: James Harvey is the father of Dashon Harvey, one of the three young people murdered in Newark last week. They were buried this weekend. Mr. Harvey joined me from his home in Newark.

Mr. Harvey, thank you so much for speaking with us.

Mr. HARVEY: Thank you for having me.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: We just spoke with James Harvey, who lost his son Dashon in the schoolyard shootings in Newark. And now we want to hear from you. Many communities around the country seem to be experiencing an increase in violence. We'd like to know why do you think this is and what's the answer. To express your views about this or any of our other programs, please go to our blog at npr.org/tellmemore. You can also call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Again, that's 202-842-3522.

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