STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And it's Friday, which is when we hear from StoryCorps. Today, we have a story of a father's grief after his son was killed by a police officer. This happened decades ago, before the unrest in Ferguson or in Baltimore and long before cell phone videos. It received little attention at the time. Thirteen-year-old Nicholas Heyward Jr. was playing with a toy gun in a stairwell of his housing complex in Brooklyn when a policeman shot him. Nicholas Heyward Sr. recently came to StoryCorps to record a memorial to his son.
NICHOLAS HEYWARD: He was an amazing kid, and I don't just say that because he was my son. When he was in seventh grade, the principal said, oh, Mr. Heyward, your son is always in my office. And the way he said it, I was like, Nicholas was acting up? He goes, no, he would complete his work in class and come down to my office just about every day to help me out. I was really, you know, touched by that.
But when Nicholas was 13, he asked can he go out and play with some of his friends. They were playing a game of cops and robbers. They all had plastic toy guns - one was orange. One was red. The toy gun Nicholas had was a toy pop gun. And the officer said that he was doing a routine patrol. There was a 911 call of shots fired. Nicholas appeared before him suddenly, and the officer shot him. And Nicholas was gone. Nothing ever happened to the officer.
But about six months after Nicholas was killed, I was looking for a parking space. There was two police officers that were standing there. And I said to myself, that looks just like the cop that killed my son. So I parked my car, and I got out. And I started getting a little nervous and shaky. And as I got closer and closer, I said, how could you have the nerve to come back in the community after killing my son? I just felt that was completely wrong for him to be there. And he just looked at me. He didn't say a word. Not once did he ever make any attempts to apologize. They wound up transferring him. I haven't seen him anymore since that time. And it's been 20 long years, and the pain has gotten actually deeper for me. I wonder what it would be like to have a son, 33 years old. I would give my life today if I could, you know, just have him back. He really was something special.
INSKEEP: Nicholas Heyward Sr. remembering his son Nicholas Heyward Jr., killed in 1994. This interview is at the Library of Congress, archived there. And the StoryCorps podcast is at iTunes and at npr.org.
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