by Michael McGee
Special to the NNPA from The Dallas Examiner

Sharon Locklin and Roy Williams discuss the case against Brian Cloninger. Photo by MIKE MCGEE

“I can’t eat the candy, Granny, but can I get a costume?”

Sharon Locklin discussed the eagerness of her grandson, Donald “DJ” Maiden Jr., to return home in time for Halloween. DJ, who recently turned 8, has been at Our Children’s House at Baylor since Sept. 3, when a stranger shot him in the left side of his face. The shooting shocked many in the community.

Speaking at a press conference in the parking lot of the La Bella Palms Apartments where the shooting occurred, his grandmother and other supporters addressed DJ’s progress and the ongoing investigation into the shooting.

The damage from the blast has forced the young child to have to speak through his tracheostomy.

“DJ is due to have another cosmetic surgery within the next three weeks, because his mouth is still wired shut and they’re gonna put a plate in. He has no feeling in his jaw. He’ll never have that back.” Locklin said.

Brian Cloninger, 46, has been charged with felony injury to a child after he allegedly retrieved a gun from his pickup truck and fired it at DJ’s face. The family has been frustrated because they insist that the charges be upgraded. Police Chief David Brown has stated that no clear motive behind the shooting has been discovered, because until recently, DJ was unable to speak at all. In the meantime, DJ’s mother, Latamarin Locklin, and advocates for the family met privately with Brown for answers.

Roy Williams, a longtime activist, said that kidnapping was possibly a factor in the shooting.

“The kid hadn’t spoken for two weeks until last week – he spoke. He spoke to the fact that the man, the perpetrator, had tried to drag him into the truck,” Williams stated. “So there is a possibility that this would have been an abduction. And if he had abducted the kid, for what – to kill him?”

Williams mentioned that there might be federal involvement.

“These type of questions need to be answered. So if we can’t get it out of the city of Dallas, and they have no interest in getting to the truth, then we’ll appeal to Eric Holder and the Justice Department and the FBI to come in and investigate a possible hate crime.”

Locklin revealed that Cloninger, who is White, had said something before he shot DJ but she declined to speak about his statement.

“All the grandmother and the family is asking for is justice,” Williams said.

Travis Wortham Jr., former director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, also spoke at the gathering. He explained that Cloninger was originally given the charge of injury to a child because at the time it was the only offense police could confirm. He now says it is time to move further with the charges.

“We are demanding that it moves up to attempted murder. One of the things that we told Chief Brown, even though he said that it was a felony one and it could carry up to 99 years in prison, we all know that most of these crimes get pleaded down. We don’t want a crime of injury to a child to get pleaded down to three years rather than it being attempted murder.” Other charges could also be added, Wortham said. “This man shot a shotgun at this kid. There’s no intention he had except to kill this kid, period.”