The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Deon Kay mourned as a young man ‘creating plans for his future’

The funeral for Deon Kay, the 18-year-old fatally by a D.C. police officer on Sept. 2, was held at Temple of Praise in Southeast Washington on Sept. 24. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

They talked of Deon Kay wanting to explore the world, about his prowess on the football field and basketball court, about how the young man “was creating plans for his future.”

It is a future, speakers lamented at the young man’s funeral Thursday, “that will no longer be realized.”

Kay was fatally shot in Southeast Washington on Sept. 2 by a D.C. police officer who saw a gun in the young man’s right hand and fired at the same time or nearly the same time the gun was being thrown away.

The shooting has angered relatives and others who believe Kay was unarmed the instant he was struck, and it comes in the midst of a racial reckoning over police conduct that has prompted demonstrations in cities across the country.

Kay’s body lay in a glass casket at the Temple of Praise church in Southeast during an hour-long service in which the senior pastor, Walter L. Staples, strung together challenges that are testing the country: the deadly pandemic, divided politics and social injustice.

Staples said he watched the news Wednesday night and noted “city after city was in an uproar” following the decision not to bring homicide charges against police officers in the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville.

Speaking broadly about racial injustice and policing, Staples said, “We’re caught in between the Black and the blue. We’re caught in between what is good and what is bad. We’re caught in between what they say is justified and what is unjustified.”

Shooting of Deon Kay gives new urgency to Police Reform Commission

Kay’s obituary, read during the service, noted that the young man, who had turned 18 three weeks before he was killed, liked school, sports and rap music, and was “becoming more proficient” in writing lyrics. His favorite colors were blue, black and white.

A letter written by his older brother said the two “shared a child’s world,” and that “my heart is broken.”

A woman who spoke but did not provide her name during the service, which was live-streamed on the church website, reminded those gathered that “once this is not in the news anymore, Deon’s family will still be here. The family will still be without him.”

Those who spoke did not directly address the circumstance’s of Kay’s death. Instead, they tried to look forward, though Staples said settling on a theme was difficult as he watches “what’s been going on in our society. . . . We’re in the middle of dealing with social injustice on every side.”

Mourners, including many young people, gathered outside the church before the service and waited in line to enter.

During the funeral, Staples told the mourners, “It’s okay to be mad.” He said that God is just, “yet we’re still living in this evil world. I feel like a storm is raging all around us.”

Staples paused, then asked, “God, do you even care about us? Do you care that we have to roll down the window when police pull up? Do you care that we’re afraid when they’re behind us?”

Staples talked about violence that has enveloped his community this year, saying his church alone has buried 16 victims of homicide since April.

“Now is the time we need peace,” Staples said, urging people to “turn this pain into power.”