WILSON, N.C. — Every week for the past nine months, Golynda Hargrove Powell makes the same phone call to Denver police detectives.
She wants to know if there are any leads in the homicide investigation into the death of her grandson, Air Force Airman 1st Class Shaquille Hargrove, who was just 19 when he was shot in downtown Denver last July 13.
Every week they tell her no — no arrests, no developments. But now, family and friends who loved Hargrove and want justice in his death are raising money to send to Metro Denver CrimeStoppers toward a reward intended to spark an arrest.
They quickly raised $8,000 and sent it to Crime Stoppers. Coupled with the $2,000 existing reward, the amount now stands at $10,000 for information that helps lead police to an arrest in Hargrove’s death. They hope to raise much more.
"I don’t want to let this become a cold case,” Powell said in an interview from her Wilson home. "I am going to do everything I can to keep it from being a cold case. All I want is justice for him. He deserves that because he was a good guy.”
Hargrove’s mother, Bernadette L. Harrison, was the first donor.
It’s a charitable contribution and it’s tax-deductible, according to information from Crime Stoppers. Money can be sent directly to Metro Denver CrimeStoppers, which has already set up a special account for Hargrove in Powell’s name. The money can be returned to the donor if a suspect isn’t arrested after a certain period of time.
"I want to show the people of Denver that the people in his hometown really love him,” Powell said. "I wanted to let people here, businesses, groups, anyone who wanted to know, to let them know how to help.”
Each time the reward goes up, CrimeStoppers will advertise it on TV in Denver, Powell said. She’s asking others in the community to help family and friends with their effort.
"I hope that this additional award money will motivate someone to call in with a useful tip,” Michael J. Mills, board president of Metro Denver Crime Stoppers, said in a letter to Powell.
Powell will never quit calling Denver police in the case.
"I call them every week until I get them,” Powell said. "If I get them, I let them rest for that week. I talked to them last Friday. They don’t have any new leads. For two weeks I couldn’t get anybody but found out the detective was in the hospital, but he called me back.”
She says police are very nice, know her number by heart now and call her Ms. Golynda.
Powell wants to look her grandson’s killer in the eye and tell him, "You took an angel.”
Dealing with Hargrove’s death is a daily struggle for her.
"I didn’t believe it at first. After the funeral, I realized he wasn’t coming back, but to me he’s still alive, right here, right here,” she said, pointing at her heart.
"He will never die to me because I talk to him every day,” Powell said. "The only thing we can do is to raise money for Crime Stoppers. It’s the only thing I can do for him. I do not want his killer to walk around free. I want the killer to be punished.”
Powell will keep working, doing what she can. That’s how she came up with this idea.
"I loved him dearly and I don’t want his memory to die and he had a lot of love and he was just an extraordinary child. And it hurts me to know that somebody took his life and they are still walking around and I’m never going to give up,” Powell said through tears. "I’m not going to let him go out like that. I’ll die trying. He was a lovely person. He wasn’t a person you can easily forget.”
When Hargrove enlisted in the Air Force and went to Denver, his grandmother didn’t worry about him. Powell felt like Hargrove was where he should be.
"I never thought anything like that would happen,” Powell said. "But the guy wasn’t really shooting at him. But with as many people who were out there that night, somebody saw something. Somebody knows something. I really do believe that.”
Family members say Hargrove, affectionately known as "Shaq,” was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The fatal shooting took place July 13 in an area of Denver densely populated with bars, which all close at 2 a.m. Several disturbances and the shooting coincided with the closings, Denver police have said. Officers were called in to break up numerous fights around the time of the shooting.
Another airman who was with Hargrove that night was injured in the shooting. Both men were stationed at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado.
Hargrove was shot and killed at the 15th and Market Street intersection in the LoDo district.
And in a large city where 40 people can be killed in a year based on 2012 statistics, it can be challenging for a family far away to keep one in the forefront of people’s thoughts. But Powell is determined to do just that.
Police have repeatedly said the case remains open, but no suspects have been identified publicly.
Witnesses cooperated with homicide detectives to provide enough information to complete a composite sketch.
The suspect in Hargrove’s death is described as a light-skinned black man with acne who is in his 20s, 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs 160 to 180 pounds. He had tightly woven braids under a "do-rag,” police said. Police asked anyone with information to call 720-913-7867.
On Saturday, a number of Hargrove’s tight-knit group of friends gathered at Powell’s house to talk about what he meant to them.
Reed Harold, Michael McLawhorn, Ryan McLawhorn and Franklin Leake talked about how their friend was an extension of their family.
Michael McLawhorn said Hargrove was just a great guy and was always the person his family wanted him to be.
Leake said he was just outgoing and full of life. Hargrove shared with Leake his interest in satellites and even saw a career there one day outside the military.
They all graduated from Fike High School.
Hargrove enlisted in the Air Force just out of Fike. He was 17. He graduated from Fike in 2011.
He was smart and ambitious, and family members felt like he was going places.
"His goal was to be the next general in the Air Force and he was on his way,” Powell said. "He was really into the Air Force. He was really out to protect and serve. It wasn’t about getting a paycheck. He wanted to make his country a safer place.”
All those things make it harder for family members.
His friends said he never started a fight. He was a peacemaker.
Hargrove made an impression beyond Wilson as well.
Hundreds of Buckley military officials and personnel lined a main street on base to give a final military courtesy to Hargrove as his remains were taken through the base July 19 on the way to the airport to be flown to Wilson. A packed memorial service there was held on July 24.
Buckley Air Force Base is located in Aurora, Colo., a Denver suburb. Buckley is home to the 460th Space Wing.
"He was by far one of my best airmen,” Lt. Col. John Henley, a former commanding officer at Buckley Air Force Base previously said. "On his initial evaluation, the Q1E (Qualification One Excellence), he got the best you can get in the command. No one has gotten that in three years.”
Powell’s Wilson home is filled with photos of her grandson. She never takes off her grandson’s dog tags given to her by his commander after his death. As she talks, her hands inevitably clutch the tags.
Powell believes she can find closure and a measure of peace with justice in this case.
"I want to generate as much money as I can,” Powell said. "I’m going to his trial. I want to be the one who talks to him to let him know he killed an angel. He should pay for that.”
She glances over at a large framed picture of her grandson.
"I kiss his picture each morning and kiss it goodnight,” Powell said.