“When the police burst into my house and shot my mum, she was on the floor and I heard her say: ‘I can’t breathe’ – just like George Floyd – ‘I can’t feel my legs, I think I’m gonna die’.”
Lee Lawrence was just 11 years old when he witnessed his 37-year-old mother Dorothy Groce, known as Cherry, get gunned down by a Metropolitan Police officer during a raid on their Brixton home in 1985.
Lee had been sleeping peacefully in Cherry’s bed before the tragedy, which sparked the Brixton Uprising, or “riots”, of 1985. He quickly became “hysterical” after seeing his wounded mother – a pain he has had to live with ever since.
“That freaked me out – I was hysterical at the time,” Lee sighed. “Shouting, screaming after seeing the person who was my world, who brought me into this world, just being gunned down in front of me. It was horrible to witness, it was like a nightmare.”
After recovering in hospital for two years, Cherry returned to her life paralysed from the waist down and an utterly changed woman.
“The shooting cut her life short; I always describe it as a long slow death, she started dying the day she was shot,” 45-year-old Lee reflected.
“My mum lived for 26 [more] years but that was 26 years of suffering. She lost the use of her legs, was paralysed from the waist down, in constant pain; she had bed sores and countless operations, was always getting infections, in and out of hospital. It was a lot.
Cherry, a mother of six, died in 2011, at the age of 63, from kidney failure, which a pathologist directly linked to the gunshot injury.
In March 2014, the police eventually apologised for her wrongful shooting. In July of the same year, an inquest jury further concluded that eight separate police failures had contributed to Cherry’s death.
As Black Lives Matter protests sweep across the UK in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of US police, this has placed the lens firmly on worldwide incidents of police...