“This bullet was not intended for my baby”

ALBANY – E-Shawn Amir Berkley saw the black car and it haunted him.

Therefore, when the young father went to buy diapers and food for his baby, he chose to go to a store that he usually did not frequent.

Hours later he was dead, killed outside a Schenectady nightclub by a bullet his mother believed was intended for someone else.

Monique Kirkley is candid in her assessment of her deceased son:

Her boy was not a saint and she does not try to retroactively shine her heritage under the banner of maternal mourning.

“He made mistakes, he hung out with the wrong audiences and he picked the wrong friends,” Kirkley said. “But that still didn’t make him less of a human being.

“He was a little demon, but my demon.”

Berkley, 23, was shot and killed near the Tropics Bar and Restaurant in the wee hours of September 5 when an argument spilled over to the nearby Speedway gas station.

He would have been 24 on Sunday.

His murder remains unsolved and Kirkley is disheartened, while also trying to find his killers, a hunt that can seem hopeless at times.

“I’m just left in the dark,” Kirkley said. “I have to face the uncertainty of not knowing.”

Kirkley sifted through the coda of an extinct life at his townhouse in the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood of Albany:

Funeral cards, photographs, official documents – a death certificate indicating the cause of death in clinical language:

Perforations of the spleen, left kidney, heart and right lung from a gunshot wound to the left flank.

It took five days before she could see his body.

Monique KIrkley holds a photo of her late son, E-Shawn Amir Berkley holding her grandson, Thursday, December 30, 2021, during an interview at his home in Albany, NY E-Shawn was killed outside of ‘a Schenectady nightclub on Work Day Weekend. Her mother is still looking for answers about her death.Will Waldron / Times Union

E-Shawn was the third of five children, a boy who could “light up a room like a Christmas tree,” but who also, his mother acknowledged, had a difficult childhood growing up in Albany.

She too had her own difficulties.

E-Shawn started running with the crowd accompanying him when he was killed aged 9 or 10 and always seemed to be the one wearing a necklace as his friends ran away, his mother recalled. .

He was, in some ways, a victim of peer pressure. He wasn’t a robber – or a mugger – but was loyal, she said, possibly with a fault.

And he made his own choices, which resulted in him being charged with weapons in June, one of four dozen people trapped in what the state attorney general’s office described as a criminal network. major who pumped drugs and weapons throughout the capital region.

“He got hooked on the streets,” Kirkley said. “This money, the lifestyle.”

The previous fall, in October 2020, E-Shawn was charged with two counts of attempted murder in connection with a shooting in the South End that left two people injured. At the time of his death, he was awaiting his conviction after having pleaded guilty weeks earlier to one count of obstructing prosecution, for which he was to be granted probation.

But all of this – including time spent at Franklin Correctional Facility in the Adirondacks as a teenager on a weapons charge – prompted him to seek a law-abiding life with his young family.

“He wanted to work, take care of his baby and support his family,” Kirkley said.

At the time of his death, Berkley was on bail for $ 25,000, money his mother had recovered.

Then they thought of leaving the state, a new start.

But E-Shawn first found a part-time job at a grocery distribution center and turned to building a new life with his girlfriend, who lived in Schenectady, and son, Ahson. .

Yet the black cloud followed him and he had fatal premonitions.

Hours before his death, E-Shawn visited his mother and asked for her debit card, which he used to buy Pampers at a store on the corner of Lexington and Central avenues.

The black car, he told his mother as they chatted in the front room, followed him.

Still, he shrugged, got out and hopped in the car that transported him to Schenectady on that hot Labor Day weekend.

“This is the last time I saw my baby,” Kirkley said.

E-Shawn didn’t have his ID with him, preventing entry to the nightclub, she learned. But that didn’t matter as a lively rally had taken place in the Speedway parking lot, where a group of men – E-Shawn among them – were hanging out. He was said to look suave and in a good mood, his mother said.

E-Shawn befriended an older man, said Kirkley, whom his mother then located and asked for answers.

The man had turned to throw away his empty beer bottles when the shots rang out:

First one, then another.

The crowd has dispersed.

It was 12:44 am

Kirkley obtained footage of paramedics performing CPR as his boy’s life passed.

Despite E-Shawn’s fears of being followed earlier today by a black car and reports that police were looking for a black Mercedes in connection with the murder, Kirkley does not believe he was the intended target this day. that night.

“Whoever was there shot the wrong person,” she said. “This bullet was not intended for my baby.”

The E-Shawn murder case “is still under a very active investigation,” according to Schenectady police, “and major state police crimes are contributing to it.”

Kirkley’s head is spinning in pursuit of the truth. She refrained from converting E-Shawn’s Facebook page to a memorial so people could always comment, possibly generating new leads.

His grandson visited him recently and Kirkley brought him to his bedroom, where the urn containing E-Shawn’s ashes rests on a shelf at the foot of his bed.

The child touched him instinctively, she said.

For Kirkley, justice is elusive.

“I think of the killers kissing their mothers with murderous lips,” she said, pausing.

“I just want justice.”

Elna M. Lemons