Tragic shooting takes life of neighborhood hero
CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 6/14/2012, 2:48 p.m.
Ackeem Paul Green, 25, was a hero in the community. His first child had just entered the world, he was scheduled to be married to his longtime girlfriend and he was a mentor to youth in Harlem. However, his life was tragically cut short last Sunday when he was shot and killed while doing what he loved most: playing basketball.
Green was one of four people shot on the basketball court at St. Nicholas Houses. While the other victims survived the shooting, it was a bullet to the back, piercing Green's lung, that killed him.
While on his weekly trip to Harlem from his home in St. Albans, Queens, to play a game with his friends, Green was an innocent bystander during what police say was a gang rivalry-fueled shooting.
Green's death is an even deeper cut to the community, as he was killed by the very thing he was fighting against. Green was a first sergeant in the Harlem Youth Marine Cadets, an after-school program to keep youth off the streets and out of trouble. He also coached basketball and played football.
While not blood-related, Green was the stepson of Col. Gregory Collins, who founded the Harlem Youth Marine Cadets over 30 years ago. In an emotional interview with the AmNews, Collins said the bullet that took his stepson's life was not meant for him.
"He joined the Harlem Marines at 15 and has been a member ever since," Collins said. "He loved sports, but after being in the program a few months, we couldn't get rid of him. As he grew up in the program, he became a mentor in the program himself and mentored other young men."
Collins said Green's mother is still in shock over her son's death; Green was her firstborn. The last time Green spoke to his mother was on Mother's Day.
As a volunteer for the Harlem Youth Marine Cadets, Green joined Collins in efforts to give Harlem its first-ever military school. If built, Green would have worked there full-time.
"I want to keep fighting for a school because of him. If we had been approved for a school a long time ago, Ackeem would have been working at the school," Collins said. "We know what we do will deter youth from doing the wrong thing."
For now, Collins said he is focusing on laying his beloved stepson, whom he considered his own son, to rest. On Thursday, June 14, a viewing will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at Memorial Baptist Church, followed by a funeral service at noon. Members of the Army National Guard will serve as pallbearers.
Rep. Charlie Rangel, City Councilwoman Inez Dickens and State Sen. Bill Perkins have all contacted Collins personally to give their condolences. Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lloyd Williams is scheduled to be at the funeral. Green will be buried at Hackensack Cemetery in New Jersey.
Collins wants to start a trust fund for Green's 2-month-old son.