NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The Martin Luther King Jr. monument in Norfolk stands tall over a city that is crying out for help.
On the evening of June 29, Bilal Muhammad was on the phone with his 33-year old son Ali, who often accompanied him at events the senior Muhammad organized as chairman of the Stop the Violence Team.
Typically, the senior Muhammed called his son each evening as he left his Ocean View apartment for a trip to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where Ali worked the overnight shift.
One month after that phone call, the senior Muhammad met with 10 On Your Side for an interview just outside downtown Norfolk on green space named Martin Luther King Junior Plaza.
In a chilling interview, Muhammad described how he became an earwitness to the horrific crime that claimed his son’s life.
Muhammad described that late-June evening as an unidentified man pulled a vehicle behind Ali’s vehicle to apparently block him from leaving the complex.
The senior Muhammad was still on the phone with his youngest of three sons when the gunman approached.
“His [the son’s] last words were ‘Will you take that gun out of my face? Will you move that gun?’ and then gunshots – pow,” said Muhammad while fighting back tears of grief.
One month after his beloved son was killed, Muhammed shared that most his nights are sleepless as he now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. His doctor suggested Muhammad set his activism aside for the remainder of the summer.
“When I wake up every morning, my son Ali, my son Ali, comes right into my mind and I hear the gunshot every day – every day,” Muhammad said near the busy intersection of Church Street and Brambleton Avenue.
The unmitigated grief aside, Muhammad answered the call when Norfolk Police requested that he attend National Night Out 2023. The new police chief, Mark Talbot, reflected on what Muhammad’s family means to him in a case that remains unsolved.
“I’ve marched with him [the senior Muhammed]; I have marched with his son; does it make it more difficult when you feel like you know the person beforehand? Absolutely it does,” Talbot said in a National Night Out preview story with 10 On Your Side.
Muhammad reflected on the difficult days ahead in the ongoing journey to Dr. King’s promised land.
“There is a drive in me that cannot stop,” Muhammad said. “I may not get there with you but we all must go through this process.”
At the conclusion of the interview, a thin, elderly man who was pushing a grocery cart full of cans he had collected stopped when he saw Muhammad.
His clothing was soiled and tattered but his eyes where sharp when he recognized Muhammed as the man who lost his son to gun violence.
“Man that’s a terrible thing,” said the man, who expressed sympathy for the chairman of the Stop the Violence Team. The passerby pushed his grocery cart past a collection of faded silk flowers that typically mark the spot where someone was murdered.
In the plaza that bears the name of the civil rights icon who also died from gun violence, Muhammad announced he is resuming his decades-long efforts to take back the community. Muhammad called on families in Hampton Roads who are also grieving over the loss of a loved one to gun violence to meet him at the Berkley Park for the annual National Night Out event.
“There is strong drive in me I cannot stop. I stand under Dr. King’s leadership. Let us band together behind Dr. King’s inspiring message,” Muhammad said. “Let us be that beacon of light to move forward and to show Hampton Roads that this is spirit of Norfolk.”