By Moses D. Sandy|
Southwest, Philadelphia-It was a wet and moderately cold Saturday morning (May 19, 2018), in Southwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Southwest Philadelphia is a suburb of the City of Philadelphia. The City is one of several cities located on the US East coast. Philadelphia, dubbed, City of brotherly love and sisterly affection, mainly the Southwest community, is a home for most African immigrants including Liberians. In the 1990’s when civil wars afflicted the west African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, most refugees and immigrants from those countries sought shelter in the community.
There was a shower of rain and the weather’s temperature was approximately 50 degrees Celsius. However, the inclement weather did not perturb or holdback the mammoth crowd that congregated at the biggest Africans owned sanctuary, Victory Harvest Fellowship International Church in the community. The church is a hub for the Southwest Philadelphia African community. Reportedly the church has a seating capacity of more than 500 people. The people started gathering as early as 8:00A.M. The purpose for the massive turn-out was somber; it was the final home going for the late Liberian born former US Marine Lance Corporal, Samuel Fayiah Makundu.
The late Fayiah, alias, Sammy, was brutally gunned-down during the early morning hours of Sunday, April 22, 2018, by an unknown assailant(s) at a night club in Southwest Philadelphia. In the crowd of mourners were US based and local Liberian journalists led by the National President of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA), Moses D. Sandy, relatives and friends of the Makundu family. Also, in attendance were Liberian community leaders and clergy, representatives of the US Marine, among others. The people came from various states in the US.
The youthful Liberian was murdered execution style at age 24. According to a former US Marine officer, who now works as security guard at the night club where the late Fayiah was killed, he was shot seven times but five of the bullets hit him. After the shooting, the security guard reported he called the police and he tried resuscitating him before he was taken to a local hospital in critical condition. He claimed he was alerted about the shooting by an alleged female friend of the late Makundu, who was seen with him at the club prior to being assassinated. But unfortunately the security guard reported the former US Marine Lance Corporal lost the ghost after exhaustive efforts by medical doctors to revive him failed.
Since the shooting, the motives and whereabouts of the deceased’s attacker or attackers remain a mystery.
Sammy, was career broadcast Liberian journalist Steven Makundu’s son. He migrated to the US in 2001 at a tender age along with his siblings for reunification with their mother, Beatrice Makundu, who migrated to the country earlier. His father Steven later joined the family. Fayiah joined the US Marine Corps in 2013 after graduating from the Upper Darby High School located in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps early this year. He was a prospective student of the Philadelphia based Temple University. According to his father Steve, the deceased was expected to begin classes at Temple at the start of the 2018/2019 Fall Semester as a Computer Science student.
Before resettling in the US, the late Makundu’s father Steven was a reputable broadcast journalist in Liberia. He worked for the Liberia Eternal Love Winning Africa (ELWA), Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), and the defunct Star Radio. In the 1980’s, journalist Makundu was the producer of the then famous radio program, Around the Nation. The program was aired by LBS and it featured prominently political, economic and social development news in rural Liberia during the reign of the late President, Samuel K. Doe and the defunct military junta, People’s Redemption Council (PRC). At the funeral, the seasoned Liberian broadcaster was one of several individuals that paid homage to his son. He took solace in the short but rewarding time they spent together during his earthly journey.
Prior to mounting the podium, the retired Senior Broadcaster seemed troubled and depressed; he was hurt. He wore a stone face as he stared blindly at his family and the crowd of grievers in the church while gasping for an answer for the causation of his son’s brutal death. He was motionless, but when he finally spoke, the notable Liberian broadcast journalist was ferocious for the mayhem done to his family by the individual(s), who ghastly ended his son’s life while in his prime. He literally cried for justice. While holding back tears, the retired Liberian media guru pleaded with the Philadelphia police and the entire US law enforcement community to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that justice is rendered in his late son’s murder case. He pontificated “They killed my son for nothing. Why? Why? Why?” He went on, “Please give us justice. Help us in bringing to justice the person(s) that killed my son”.
In the midst of agony, Steve, as he’s popularly known in the Liberian media, insisted “we want to know who took my son’s life and why?” Makundu Sr. reflected “Sammy and I were close; we were good friends. We kept in touch, joked, and talked regularly. My son was a good boy.” Pointing his index finger at the coffin bearing his son’s remains, Steve declared with a cracking voice “My son is in that small box. Why? Why?” He told the mourners “My son was a former member of the US marine so, this case is a test for our security people in this country. I urge you to take these people of the streets.” The fallen former US Marine’s grisly murder is being investigated by the Philadelphia police, but so far, there has been no arrest. Moreover, no one including the family knows why he was executed. According to the family, Fayiah was shot in the abdomen and head repeatedly by his assailant(s).
Also, paying separate family tributes at the funeral, the late Sammy’s siblings and mother, Beatrice Makundu, remarked “Samuel was not a street man. He was our brother and son. Why did you take away his life unnecessarily?” The family noted “We regret the tragedy and the limited time Sammy spent with us, but we are proud of the role he played in the US Marine Corps. He brought us joy and happiness; he jovial.” They said they were devastated by Sammy’s death but “We are Christians and God will bring us through this situation.”
Everyone, who spoke at Sammy’s wake keeping and funeral referred to him as someone, who was always willing to help others whenever assistance was needed. “Sammy was a victim of kindness. He did not want to hurt anyone,” remarked a friend of the Makundu family. In addition to the Makundu’s family tributes, a number of US based Liberian community organizations that attended the wake keeping and funeral paid homage. ALJA, Diompillo America, Naapliah, churches and the US Marine Corps delivered tributes. In their respective tributes, all of the organizations and churches described the death of the fallen former US Marine Lance Corporal as a huge loss to his family, the US and the Philadelphia African community, mainly Liberians. They expressed regret for the loss suffered and called for the Lord’s blessing upon the Makundu family during their healing process.
The organizations and churches reechoed the family plea for justice in bring to book the individual(s) that slaughtered the late Fayiah. “Let justice prevail in this matter,” they underscored. The late Makundu leaves to mourn his loss his parents, siblings, and a host of relatives in the US and Liberia. Philadelphia, like other major cities in the United States, experiences high gun violence especially in the North Philadelphia, West Philadelphia and Southwest Philadelphia areas. A recent gun related violence death toll statistics released by the Philadelphia Police Department put the number of murder victims ranging from January of this year to May 30th to 123. In the year 2017, the Department reported 311 gun related homicide. Gun violence remains a serious problem in Philadelphia and other US cities due to easy access firearm laws.
Pennsylvania gun laws stipulated that for an individual to purchase a firearm, he or she must be at least 18 years of age with no criminal conviction record. Moreover, the applicant must not be an undocumented immigrant or declared mentally ill by a court of competent jurisdiction. The laws further bar drug addicts or habitual drunkards and fugitives from justice owning guns. Additionally, no firearms are known to be prohibited by state law. Private sales of handguns are required to go through a licensed dealer, though long guns may be sold privately without the use of a licensed dealer. Licensed dealers must provide locking devices with handguns unless the handgun has a locking device incorporated in its design.
In Pennsylvania, there are more than 2,500 federally licensed firearm dealers where one may make a purchase. Individuals interested in purchasing a firearm must first fill out an application with their basic information. Once the application has been completed, the firearms dealer will input the information into the Pennsylvania Instant Check System to check if the individual is legally allowed to own a firearm. Residents in Pennsylvania may also purchase firearms from gun shows and private dealers.