Grandma of Missing Girl Says Racism Hindering Investigation

Jahessye Shockley’s grandmother says the police department hasn’t made her granddaughter’s case a priority because she’s Black.

Posted: 10/23/2011 08:53 AM EDT


For years in the Black community, many have claimed that Black missing children do not receive as much attention from the media or police departments as do their white counterparts. Now, Shirley Johnson, the grandmother of missing Arizona 5-year-old Jahessye Shockley, is saying what others may have been thinking all along — local police aren’t trying their best to find Jahessye because she is Black.

Johnson told reporters Thursday, "The Glendale Police Department has not brought this to the forefront. They botched this investigation," she said, according to the Associated Press. "I believe it's because she's a little Black girl."

Jahessye has been missing for more than a week and police say they have no suspects, evidence or promising leads after conducting a search that covered the area within three miles of the girl's home and utilized more than 100 officers and volunteers.

Still, Johnson says enough isn’t being done for her granddaughter. Taking matters into her own hands, she and several of her friends and neighbors took to the state capitol in Phoenix to draw more attention to the case that she says is only getting local media attention, but should be of nationwide concern.

"People in California have barely even heard what's going on," she said. "Somehow, somebody's suppressing something because the local media is keeping it local, and with all due respect to the media, it's not getting out. ... This is about my grandbaby."

Police deny that they have neglected Jahessye’s case, or that race has anything to do with the way the investigation is proceeding.

"What matters is there's a 5-year-old girl missing," Glendale police Sgt. Brent Coombs told the Associated Press. "It's the department's No. 1 priority. There's so much mystery around it and we've got an obligation to get to the bottom of it and try our best to bring her back safely or find out where she's at."

The Glendale police department is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for anyone who leads them to a break in the case, Jahessye’s family is offering $5,000 and the Arizona's Silent Witness tip line is offering $1,000 for leads.

Jahessye is 3-feet-5-inches tall and weighs 55 pounds. She was last seen wearing a solid white T-shirt, blue jean shorts and pink flip-flops.

If you have any information, contact the Glendale Police Department at 623-930-HELP (4357).