Community comes together for assault victim

Published 10:56 am Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In an effort that was accomplished through community support, the Franklinton Police Department recently made a special presentation to a 17-year-old Covington boy who had been the victim of a brutal attack.

Jacob Kelley, who has autism, has the estimated cognitive age of a 12-year-old and enjoys most things people living without the disorder enjoy, Maj. Justin Brown said.

“He laughs, he cries, he has joy and he has heartache. What he did not have was a fear of the outside world and what a cruel and evil place it could be,” he said. “Jacob lived his life through the eyes of a child, not knowing the extent of dangers that lurk in the hearts and minds of misguided souls.”

Kelly was walking home from the library one day in late May when he was ambushed, without provocation or warning. He was struck in the jaw and lost consciousness.

“A nearby witness rushed to his aid and subsequently helped him walk home,” Brown said. “Jacob was taken to the hospital where he underwent surgery, which required four titanium plates and 16 screws to hold his jaw together.”

The attack was referred to in news reports and social media posts as the “knockout game” crime. Reportedly started as a gang initiation elsewhere in the country, he said the “game” has spread and is now being committed by teenagers and young adults with no gang affiliation.

Brown said he took notice of Kelley and his recovery through these reports.

He said it brought to mind the Ruth Smeltzer quote that describes how he wants to live his life, “You have not lived a perfect day, unless you have done something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

“I felt compelled to show him that although the world was full bad people, there were millions more who wanted to live the perfect day,” he said.

Having obtained her contact information through law enforcement contacts, Brown got in touch with Kelley’s mother. He asked about the teenager’s health and if he and other FPD officers could come and visit him.

Brown asked Kelley’s mother about the young man’s passions and interests and learned he enjoys reading and aspires to be a writer one day. Also, he has an interest in video games and video game design.

“This was all the information I needed, and I knew my community would help answer the call to share our love and support,” Brown said. “I made a Facebook post about Jacob’s story and posted it to the Franklinton Police Department page and also shared it with my contacts.”

He requested that people make donations to help purchase a gift for Kelley and said those not in a position to donate financially could contribute by writing a letter of support.

Meanwhile — during the two weeks when cards, letters and donations were pouring in — the Covington Police Department arrested two 14-year-olds for the attack on Kelley.

Having decided a laptop would be a good way to further Kelley’s interests, Brown was put in contact with Malarie Jenkins, a Franklinton native and the sales manager at Best Buy in Covington.

He said Jenkins provided assistance in selecting the correct computer and software, and a rugged laptop designed for gaming was chosen, along with several accessories.

“Malarie was a huge help, and Best Buy discounted the cost at a phenomenal percentage and even donated some of the items,” he said.

Next, Brown contacted friend and former Slidell Police Chief Jesse Simon, who works for LoJack, the manufacturer of theft tracking software.

“He was familiar with Jacob’s story, and after telling him what we were doing he donated a subscription of the software at no cost,” Brown said.

Thus, on Wednesday, June 18, Brown, several members of the Franklinton Police Department and Franklinton residents Mike and Betty Gill met at Best Buy.

“Malarie came in on her day off, and Jacob’s mother brought him to the store under the pretense of just looking around,” he added.

Once everything was set, he motioned for Kelley’s mother to bring him over, and Brown introduced himself.

“I acknowledged my co-workers and friends in attendance and explained to him the outpouring of support the residents of Franklinton, Washington Parish and other states had given,” he said. “When I started to unveil the gifts, Jacob looked like a child at Christmas.

“Item after item was removed from the bag, and I could tell the moment was bigger than anyone who was standing there.”

When asked about how he felt, Kelley responded, “I think words cannot explain, words cannot explain how I feel right now.”

Brown said those words are fitting, and he would use them to describe the experience, as well.

“I think words cannot explain it. I think words cannot explain how proud I am to be from Franklinton and Washington Parish,” he said. “I think words cannot explain how humbling it is to see the love and support of our residents continuously give for righteous causes.

“Let us continue to live perfect days. It looks pretty good on us.”