By Sarah Ahmed
The friends and family of Aaron Winchester held their annual march and vigil last week to celebrate his life and protest his murder by Officer David Jester of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) in 2008. Marchers followed the path that Winchester walked in the last moments of his life, starting at the gas station where he parked his car and concluding at the location where a police officer shot him twice in the back.
Winchester’s family, who called him “A” as a nickname, refer to their annual event as the “March for A.” Protesters walked past homes on Sylvania Avenue holding signs reading, “Still Standing for A,” and “Aaron: Your Legacy Lives within Us!” Many residents raised their fists in solidarity and joined in chants of “No Justice, No Peace.”
At the end of the march, the group stopped and Winchester’s friends placed flowers at the light pole where he was murdered. Bonita, Winchester’s mother, updated the marchers with information she had just learned the day of this year’s event. The president of the area’s neighborhood association had told Bonita that a long-term resident who was a witness to Winchester’s murder said that as he lay dying, Officer Jester kneeled over Winchester, casually drinking a bottle of water. The witness said Jester put his knee on Winchester’s lifeless body, handcuffed him, and then kicked him in the face.
On May 20, 2008, Winchester and his girlfriend had an argument after a traffic accident, during which someone called the police to the scene. After parking his car, Winchester walked to a residential area on Sylvania Avenue to calm down. Officer Jester trailed Winchester in his patrol car and stopped to question him. When Jester attempted to search him, police claim that Winchester ran away. Jester then shot at Winchester four times, hitting him twice in the back.
The Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s office led the investigation into Winchester’s murder and chose not to charge Jester with any crime. Winchester’s family has demanded that the investigation be reopened.
After the vigil, Bonita invited marchers to her home for a cookout to celebrate the community support for her family. Lashawn Jennings, the cousin of Frankie Jennings, who was murdered by US Marshals at the end of March, attended the cookout and expressed her solidarity with the Winchester family.
The community remembers Winchester as a caring older brother and friend, and a young father. One childhood friend, John, told Tribune that Winchester would defend him from bullies in school. This made such an impact on him that he attended Winchester’s vigil twenty years later after losing touch. “He definitely had his own moral code,” John said.
Winchester’s sister, Sharron, told Tribune that he would take neighborhood kids out to sell candy bars to provide a positive activity to young people. She said Winchester wanted to start an organization that would address street violence.
For twelve years, Winchester’s family and friends have dedicated themselves to celebrating the truth about his life, becoming organizers themselves in the fight for people’s justice for their loved one and for all the victims of racist police violence.
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