Agabus Lartey walks miles and miles, and thinks about his daughter.
He remembers the morning devotions they prayed together, with Kristen perched on her bed and Agabus on her hardwood floor. “How are you doing in your walk with the Lord?” he would ask her.
He recalls, too, the afternoons she would call home as she walked between classes in New York, just to say hi. The smell of her nail polish as she got ready to go out. Her beautiful singing voice and her determination to join the youth ministry in the Pentecostal church in Boston where he was a pastor.
And he thinks about the night of Aug. 12, 2012, when bullets that tore through the car where Kristen, 22, sat with three high school friends on Harlem Street. Kristen died almost instantly; Sharrice Perkins, 22, died within minutes; Genevieve Phillip, 22, was hit at least seven times, and died hours later. Their killer has never been caught. The fourth woman in the car was hit in the leg, and lived.
Boston police are still investigating the triple killing. They have said that one of the women shot was targeted, but have declined to say which one. The name of the survivor has not been released out of consideration for her safety. Last year, around the first anniversary of the killings, officials said they had “several persons of interest” and a “good foundation of evidence.”
This year, police said the case remains a top priority but did not provide new details on the investigation.
“The investigation continues, and is active and ongoing,” said Officer James Kenneally, a Boston police spokesman. “Investigators continue to encourage people who may have information as it relates to this case to share that information with police.”
Lartey, a deeply religious man who was born in Ghana, said he prays for police to make an arrest, but not out of bitterness or spite: God is good, he said. God has given him grace.
“For the safety of the people in the Boston community, I would want them to be arrested,” said Lartey. “When people feel they can do something with impunity, and they feel invisible, then they might be inclined to repeat that thing again.”
He prays, as well, for his daughter.
“God, help me see my daughter again,” he said, over and over, as he walks, and thinks about her, tears streaming down his face. When she was alive, he prayed for his daughter every morning, but he never asked God to protect her from the wicked. He did not think he needed to.
“Who is expecting their child to be killed like that?” he asked.
He calls his daughter’s killing simply “the event.” It happened on his 55th birthday. They went to church together that morning, and Kristen, who had just graduated from St. John’s University, told Lartey that she wanted to join the youth ministry at their church. He was so proud.
She painted her nails and set out with her friends from her days at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science in Roxbury to go to the Dominican Festival at the Shattuck Picnic Grove in Franklin Park. At about 9:22 p.m., they arrived on Harlem Street, apparently to drop off Sharrice Perkins, who lived there.
And then gunshots rang out.
“To die is one thing, but the way she died,” he said.
It does not make sense. She was the daughter he raised tenderly, deliberately, by the Bible. Hers was the serene and steady voice her friends turned to when they needed advice. In 2010, when her mother, Lartey’s wife, died of cancer, Kristen was stricken, but even in her heartbreak she made sure to check in on her father regularly. They cared for each other, he said.
Lartey stays in touch with the survivor, and said she is doing better these days.
“I have encouraged her to carry on with her life,” said Lartey. “She has three other girls to live for.”
Perkins, one of the other two young women killed, had studied engineering at Roxbury Community College, and had found a job she loved working as a hotel clerk and dreamed of a career in hospitality. She was crazy about Double Dutch, and spent years on a team that once won a national championship. Her mother often served as her coach.
Phillip, the other victim, was the mother to a 5-year-old daughter, and hoped one day to open her own beauty salon. She was scheduled to start classes at Empire Beauty School in Boston two days after she was killed. Family members of the two women did not respond to requests for comment.
Lartey has moved to Walpole from the Hyde Park home where he was living with his daughter when she was killed. But when he returns to Boston and sees a young girl with natural hair like his daughter’s, or speaks with the young women at his church as they graduate college and get jobs, he thinks of Kristen. When he officiates a wedding, he thinks of his daughter, whom he will never see marry.
Kristen and her friends will be honored next month at the first annual Jump Into Peace Double Dutch Event, organized by Boston City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley with help from several local organizations to raise awareness about the risks to girls and women as victims and perpetrators of violence.
“It is my vision that it will be an annual event that supports the peace movement, and that it will build community,” said Pressley. “I thought back to a time when I felt free and empowered: when I felt safe enough to jump Double Dutch in my neighborhood . . . and the bonds of sisterhood that were forged.”
Lartey will spend the anniversary of his daughter’s death away from Boston. His grief, he said, does not rise and fall with the passing of Aug. 12. It is constant.
“It is with me all the time,” he said. “I don’t have a switch to turn on and off.”
But the peace he has found in God is constant, too. He said he harbors no hatred for his daughter’s killer or killers.
“I love them, just as God loves them, although I hated what they did to my family,” he said. “If you could put that in bold letters: I love them.”
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