Hamson McPherson Jr's death a murder, not a suicide?
LEONARDO CLAUDIO Special to the AmNews | 1/12/2012, 1:02 p.m.
The worst thing a parent can experience is the death of a child.
A child is not supposed to leave the earth before his parents; such a death can seem even more senseless if the reason just doesn't make sense. This has been the unfortunate fate of the McPherson family.
"No way was it suicide," were the words that lingered throughout the conversation Hamson McPherson Sr. had with the Amsterdam News about the tragic, yet mysterious death of his son, Hamson McPherson Jr.
McPherson was a young African-American Marine from Staten Island, stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and is said to have committed suicide by soaking himself in gasoline and setting himself ablaze on May 1, 2011. But the story does not add up for a number of reasons, and the senior McPherson, all these months later, is still looking for answers.
He described his 21-year-old son as a strong young man who never had expressed any thoughts of suicide. He also wondered why, on a base full of guns, he would have chosen to take his own life in such an excruciating way.
And while the senior McPherson is more than a bit reluctant to accept suicide as the cause of death, he does acknowledge that there were issues McPherson was facing, which he shared with his dad. He told him of the ongoing racism and tensions he was facing in the service.
Before his untimely death, he had been in a bar fight with a white Marine while stationed in Japan about a year ago.
"I told him that these guys were going to try to snake him. I told him just like that," McPherson's father said.
The elder McPherson was notified that his son was in critical condition by a marine officer named O'Brien. O'Brien came to his home and promised that a full investigation would be done into his son's injuries as he handed the understandably agitated father a suicide note.
But as the father read the note, he knew something was wrong: The handwriting was not his son's, and in the note he referred to his sister by her full name-which he never used. The senior McPherson tried to show the officer a sample of his son's handwriting, but the officer refused to look at it.
"If you are investigating, then why won't you match up the handwriting in the letters to the note?" he asked. He then asked about cameras on the base, to find out if the alleged suicide might have been caught on video. But the officer claimed that the camera was "not in service."
The father's voice filled with sorrow as he professed that members the military "are making up stories...How is it that my son so happened to commit suicide in the only facility that cameras so happened to not be in service?" he questioned.
And as if that were not enough, he was informed that there were two witnesses to McPherson's death, a Japanese security guard and a military police officer. "All I know about them was that they supposedly put the fire out. I was not given any names or any other information about these witnesses," he said.
McPherson was flown to San Antonio, Texas, where he was in critical condition for 19 days following the incident. When his father walked in to see his son, he exclaimed, "Junior." His son responded with a sudden movement but was unable to verbally respond.
Doctors took pieces of his skin, hoping to be able to regenerate it to make skin grafts, but on the 20th day the young marine lost his tenuous hold on life and he succumbed to death.
As the father finished telling the details of his son's final moments, he fought back tears. "I want justice for my boy. I need answers from the Marines," he finally said.