Local activists still seek “Justice for Kionte”

Rev. Alonzo Smith (left) assists Antonia Askew (Kionte’s mother) in placing flowers and solar lights near the site where the victim was shot by police. – Photos by S. Hale

by S. Rotan Hale

It was 2 years ago (February 26) that young Kionte Spencer, was shot down by Roanoke County Police (RCP).

The 18-year-old was walking along 419 near the intersection at Brambleton Ave. when approached by police who shot Spencer during the altercation. Police records report Spencer brandished a BB gun.

Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall confirmed that no witnesses (passersby etc.) to the shooting were ever located or interviewed.

However a local news source interviewed a man (Ken Schoff) the driver of a van who said he saw Spencer, heard shouting, then shots and was shortly thereafter directed by police to leave the scene.

Questions concerning the tragic incident continue to especially plague members of the local branch NAACP who –joined by a group of supporters and members of the local press–gathered for a memorial service to call attention to the ongoing mission to seek “Justice for Kionte.”

Some attendees held signs urging authorities to “Release the Dash-cam footage” and asked for an independent investigation–2 things which to this day have not happened.

The service held in the parking lot of Cave Spring post office involved prayers, songs, an interpretive dance routine and several speakers as Spencer’s mother Antonia Askew.

Askew spoke of how her son was taken from her because of certain underprivileged conditions they lived under charging it as child endangerment. She expressed how she “fought and fought for his return, only to loose time and time again.” Fighting tears through her heart-wrenching story, Askew said sadly that she was informed of her son’s death the day of his funeral.

Senelle Ramsey performs an interpretive dance routine during the memorial tribute.

A moving interpretive dance routine by Senelle Ramsey provide an uplifting moment at this solemn service that also included Bernadette Brown and DaRron Lark who performed several gospel selections that lifted the spiritual tone of the program.

“It could have very well been my brother, my father or my son… at the end of the day what matters is that we know we are one,” said Bernadette prior to leading the small crowd on one of her original song “We are One.”

Through his rap performance James Jones, Jr., intensely pointed out the uphill plight faced by many young Black men regarding numerous shootings by police and those understood as “Black on Black crime.”

Kionte Spencer’s mother Antonia Askew is comforted by NAACP president Brenda Hale and Gloria Randolph-King, First VP, NAACP, (local).

However it was local NAACP president Brenda Hale who delivered the clarion call for justice regarding the unfortunate demise of Kionte Spencer. It’s a case that begs for the whole truth and at the time drew national attention as another Black man being shot down “incidentally” by police.

“We will never rest until the complete truth–that is on the police cars dash cam video– be shown in its entirety,” said Hale during her written remarks that also focused on the issue of a department investigating itself. Records show County Police conducted their own investigation of the shooting. Nevertheless, Hale has continually made the point–asking for credible sources, as the Virginia State Police (independent of County Police) to conduct an investigation of Kionte’s killing.

Among her request was the establishment of a “citizen review board” comprised of 2 or 3 minority individuals and urged County Police Dept. to “interact and collaborate with community leaders.”

The memorial service concluded as attendees marched a short distance to place flowers and memorabilia at a makeshift monument to Kionte Spencer.