It’s been nearly thirteen years since Barry Brooks, Jr., “BJ,” was shot and killed in Jacksonville, Florida. His mother, Margie Brooks, spoke to Project: Cold Case about the pain and struggle of living without her son.
Project: Cold Case: How has BJ’s life continued to impact and influence those who knew him?
Margie Brooks: BJ impacted many lives. Some of the students still dance and say that BJ is the reason why they still dance. Some don’t dance anymore because of BJ’s loss. He still had an impact on their lives. He mentored them in other ways.
I always called him my “test child.” Cause God tested my faith with him! We stay connected with family and celebrate him in many different ways. We will never forget a birthday or the anniversary of him being murdered. I often visit his gravesite.
When people ask me “how many children do you have?” I have three children. I have three children regardless of him not being here physically. His legacy will never go away. Its going to always be here. Be with us.
PCC: What is something about your journey through this grief that you accept where you are but you couldn’t imagine or consider initially?
PCC: You have been active in the community and helping others with similar journeys for years. What drives you to continually help others as you do?
MB: My drive is because of him. It brings joy just me being able to help other people. Since he’s passed away I’ve run across other people that are going through similar situations and they are in early stages and they don’t know how to deal and cope.
Being that I’m a veteran and talking about BJ is easy because of the person that he was. It’s easy to talk about him and to talk about his life to explain to other people that it will get easier and try not to rush yourself but to take your time. Everyone heals differently and it brings peace to me to see the life come back to their face when they realize they aren’t physically alone. They’re not doing it alone.
PCC: The case was suspended, but there were some movements recently with re-testing. How did you come about that information? Did law enforcement reach out to you?
MB: [The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office] has not reached out to us in maybe eleven years.
[Project: Cold Case] actually told us about them retesting the DNA and everything. We went to a town meeting with [Families of Slain Children] and I talked to a detective there and was told that it came back with nothing. There is still no new evidence, no new witnesses – no nothing. It made me empty inside. We’re back at the beginning again. The only way this case can be solved is somebody talk.
PCC: What would you ask of your community?
MB: I kind of got angry with that one, because the silence with the community starts with these mothers. It’s a lot of mothers.
If you’re going to be a mother, you need to act like a mother. If you are protecting your child knowing that they have hurt somebody, killed someone, did something wrong, and you’re protecting that child – you’re just as guilty. More so than your child.
There’s plenty of them sitting in church saying “pray for my child to get off the streets” but you know what your child has done and you can help your child to get off the streets by turning them in.
They need to follow their hearts and open up their souls and break that mold. It starts with these mothers sitting in church, knowing what their child has done, praising God. It hurts.
PCC: Is there anything specific that you would like to include in the article?
MB: I can’t say we need closure, because that will be another puzzle piece to put our puzzle together, but it will not be closure. That’s a part of our lives that will never be put back.
PCC: How has your husband coped with losing his son? How has this affected him?
MB: He’s very angry. He feels that he should have been there to protect him. He’s his father. He wasn’t there to protect his child.
A lot of times he’s depressed, he doesn’t go out. He’s not the open person that he used to be, even though he looks like a big angry man, he’s just as sensitive as us. He’s very angry.
PCC: You and your husband are clearly in different places when it comes to your grief. You are out in the community assisting and your husband stays back, supporting you. It’s perfectly normal for families to grieve in different manners and on a different timeline. What would you say about that regarding your family?
MB: All four of us – including our son and daughter – are dealing with this in different manners.
I’m the one that is reaching out and going after everything. My daughter talks about her brother and she talks about him to her children. She will not visit the gravesite. She struggles with it. She can only be there for a short period of time. She’ll go through the gravesite but will immediately need to leave. One of BJ’s favorite places was to go to Applebee’s or Golden Corral, and she would leave the gravesite and go there. She just can’t deal with it that way.
Our son does it through his artwork. He does all kinds of murals of his brother. He talks about him to us; he doesn’t talk about him to other people. His friends know, but it’s hard for him to speak about his brother. He tried to go to a few meetings at Compassionate Families, but he made it through one meeting and attempted to go to a second. He made it to the parking lot and didn’t go in.
We are all different and all dealing with it differently. I was so into that I lost a son. It was my son, my son, my child. And at that point, I almost forgot that I had two other children and a husband. Everyone was dealing with it differently. We had to come together as a family because we were struggling.
PCC: BJ only graced your lives and this world for 19 years. What did the world lose out on without having BJ in it?
MB: The world was open with BJ. He loved the arts, period. He loved to draw. He loved poetry. He loved to dance. He loved people. Even though he was trying to find his niche at the age of 19, he had two jobs.
The world missed out on a brilliant young man. There was much left out there for him to do. For him to conquer. He wrote a couple of poems – he wrote me one for my birthday, “Teaching a Bird to Fly.” He wrote one for his dancers about pop-locking. We actually included both of those in with his obituary. He also loved his rapping, which was part of poetry. He could’ve been a poet, a dancer, a father.
We won’t see his children. His wife. We won’t see that. Another missing piece of the puzzle.
June 27, 2015
Nineteen-year-old Barry “BJ” Brooks Jr. and his girlfriend were walking from one apartment to another on November 18, 2007, in Jacksonville, FL when they were approached by two men in hoodies and robbed.
As the suspects began harassing his girlfriend, BJ stepped up to defend her and was shot in the upper body.
The bullet pierced an artery in his heart and he died at the hospital early the next day.
BJ was known by his family and friends as someone that could be counted on. Whether it was helping a cousin get her car started, taking family to visit other relatives, or teaching kids to dance, BJ was always happy to help.
BJ’s family has continued his ways of helping others by volunteering with Compassionate Families, Inc., a Jacksonville non-profit that serves families that have lost loved ones to homicide.
If you have any information, no matter how small you think it is, about BJ’s murder please call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500. To remain anonymous call Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
You may be eligible for a reward of up to $3,000 if your Crime Stoppers tip leads to an arrest in this case. An additional $1,000 reward is available for information that leads to the recovery of the gun used in this case.
If you have a loved one that is the victim of an unsolved homicide please submit their case here for consideration in a future Cold Case Spotlight post.