Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Memorial a Rallying Point; Service for Evans, Who Died in Police Custody, Includes Vows to End Possible Police Brutality

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Memorial a Rallying Point; Service for Evans, Who Died in Police Custody, Includes Vows to End Possible Police Brutality

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL, The Times-Union

Sammie Lee Evans wasn't only a funny, honest and friendly man, but he also was a great singer, longtime friend and pastor Ebed Scott said.

So when several younger family members sang tributes Saturday to Evans, who died during an arrest Dec. 3, it became clear that they also had the gift.

Cousin Siniyia Wright elicited sobs and shouts from the crowd at Mount Sinai Baptist Church as she crooned, "I sing because I'm happy. I sing because I'm free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me."

Then 13-year-olds Sa'Derria Johnson and Ric'Shawnda Bailey, Evans' granddaughter and niece, respectively, led the church in singing I Just Can't Give Up Now. Sa'Derria fought tears while Ric'Shawnda's voice remained steady, and the crowd clapped and stood in support.

Ending the program was Shanika Carter, who dedicated a song to Evans, her father, and her three sisters. "I will stand still until you fill in the missing pieces, until your will is clear to me," she sang.

By the time the two-hour service ended, the hundreds of attendees had both said goodbye to Evans and vowed to take a stand against what many perceive as an act of police brutality.

Several times during the service, Officer Kaleb Underwood was mentioned. Underwood was arresting Evans when the 49-year-old became unresponsive after a struggle and died, police said. Witnesses have said Evans complained about his handcuffs being too tight and was slammed to the ground.

Jacksonville NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin received a standing ovation after his remarks to the crowd, which he began by saying police brutality was a nationwide problem. But he blamed local officials for Evans' death.

"Officer Underwood had a pattern," he said, alluding to previous complaints about the rookie officer who resigned the day after Evans died. …

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