Views, emotions, after 5-year-old Andrew Faust's alleged killers released. Video by Amy Bennett Williams

 89 8LINKEDIN 4COMMENTMORE

SERIESWho Killed Andrew?

Seven months ago, William Glover gave a eulogy for a little boy he didn't know.

It didn't matter. Just days after he was killed by a stray bullet, 5-year-old Andrew Faust Jr. was a powerful symbol of everything wrong with the Dunbar community, where Glover works to right those wrongs as pastor of Mt. Hermon church. No witnesses had yet appeared when Glover delivered his sermon, which also was a plea for someone to reveal what happened the night of Oct. 13.

Keeping silent isn't keeping you safe — it's just providing a cloak of safety for those who would live and continue to shoot another day. It's making us all more vulnerable…We need to stop hiding murderers and letting the guilty go free.

For more than an hour, Glover, 53, shouted, wept and prayed in front of the packed church, a man possessed by spirit at the peak of his powers.

When the blood of the innocents is shed, it speaks. It cries out from the ground… The voice of this precious 5-year-old baby has not been silenced.

His audience clasped hands and wiped tears as the words washed over them.

It's time to break the silence. People remain silent because they think the silence is protecting them from retaliation…But (when) the would-be criminals and perpetrators and murderers are not apprehended… When a baby in the confines and privacy of their own home can catch a bullet that was intended for somebody else? Oh, hell no. Now the most innocent of us are not safe. You need to come to your senses up in here.

So it felt like a singular triumph of collective will when, two weeks after Andrew's death, the Fort Myers Police Department arrested two men. An eyewitness had identified them both. The drumbeat question: Who killed Andrew? could be answered at last. Justice would be done. Dunbar was standing up to an evil that had long kept it cowed.

Then, the case crumbled.

 

Dr. William Glover on finger-pointing, failures and facing up to fear in Dunbar. Video by Amy Bennett Williams

After she was threatened, according to her lawyer, 19-year-old witness Cashae Smith "forgot" everything she'd seen. With no testimony, a judge ruled Thomas Edison and Terrance Irons, Andrew's alleged killers, couldn't be held. Now, the case will likely never go to trial unless more evidence or witnesses surface, and the two won't get their day in court.

In wake of their Tuesday release, Dunbar residents are trying to sort out what happened and what it all means — both for them and about them.

 

Voices

As far as James Muwakkil's concerned, the process unfolded as it should have.

"This is the way the system is supposed to work," says the 55-year-old head of Lee County's NAACP. "Here's a 5-year-old kid who was killed, and we care about that just like other people care about their children, but at the same time, the criminal justice system had to release these two guys. We have to respect that."

Plus, Muwakkil says, not everyone is sure Irons and Edison were the shooters. "(People) have said from the very beginning they weren't the right ones." Whether or not the killers will ever be found is an open question, and if they're not, he won't be surprised. "Unsolved crimes are nothing new in the African-American community."

 

The case has pained Harold Jones, a barber at Just N Time barbershop, from the beginning – not just because he cut Andrew's hair. "He was a pretty cool little kid and his mom was a cool lady also." It's because he also knows Terrance Irons, whose nickname is City Bill.

"It didn't sit well with me because that's not his character," says Jones, 43.

"I was heartbroken… He was always with his kids, his family. Always smiling. Just never had that negative spirit," he says. "Some people come around with bad vibes. I never felt that with City Bill."

He suggests Dunbar's close-knit culture makes coming forward even harder, because people realize turning someone in can have far-reaching impact. "It affects more families and more people than the lives already lost," he says. "There's one person gone from being murdered, then another gone from being the murderer. You lose both ways, on both sides of the family. It's a ripple effect."

After the dismay wore off, 67-year-old retiree Nancy Simms' faith kicked in.

"My first thought when I heard it was this is a travesty of justice," she says.

"Basically, (the witness) felt threatened for her life, and I have no reason to doubt that. (But) how we would ever get to the bottom of it, I don't know. We have to put our faith in the justice system," she says, then smiles, pointing heavenward. "But my ultimate faith is in the Lord above. So one way or the other, all three of 'em are going to get theirs in the end."

Faith also figures into Abdul'Haq Muhammed's reaction to the news of the men's release.

"As far as those two individuals are concerned, if they truly were the people who did the shooting, they will receive their due," says Muhammed, 67, executive director of the nonprofit Quality Life Center. "Communities figure out ways to mete out justice to those who have done wrong to children."

While he says he doesn't judge the witness — "a young mother who chose not to speak" — he says it's likely there are others who know what happened. He hopes they find the strength to speak the truth. "Nothing of value has ever been achieved based on fear. It's been achieved based on courage."

Bitter and wrenching as the last eight months have been, they've clarified 16-year-oldAngel Escobar's sense of purpose.

"My family is close to (Andrew's) and I've been heartbroken...It's really tough to know that things like that are happening. I have little brothers myself," says the Dunbar High School 10th-grader.

What made it tougher is she's also friends with Edison's daughter. "It is really hard. All my friend wanted was for her dad to be home. But with my stepmom being friends with Andrew's mother, I'm pulled both ways."

Like Muhammed, Angel believes there are other witnesses but they probably won't show themselves. "Which I think is sad, because that just shows how crazy our community can be," she says. "All I want is for my community to have peace."

To that end, she intends to keep pushing for change.

"I think I can make a difference in the community. It just takes leaders and I would honestly love to be a leader, to bring the community back together...It just takes that one person to start."