Although African Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 33 percent of the missing in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s database. Cases involving African Americans also tend to receive less media coverage than missing Whites, with missing men of color getting even less attention.
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Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos both vanished almost a decade ago after each had separate encounters with Cpl. Steven Calkins of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
“This is injustice,” said Perry, who held hands with Williams’ mother throughout the news conference that was also attended by the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network and Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP.
“I don’t think this is about race or social status as much as it is about, no matter who we are, we should be outraged that this is happening in America in 2013,” he added.
Perry has tried to use his star power to bring national media attention to the cases for a few years now.
Williams was last seen in the vicinity of 111th Ave. and Vanderbilt Dr. in Naples, Fla. He was possibly sighted later that day at a convenience store in the vicinity of Wiggins Pass and US 41. His vehicle, a white Cadillac, was found on Vanderbilt Beach Rd. in Naples, Fla., on January 12, 2004. Williams was last seen with Calkins, a nearly 17-year Collier Sheriff’s Office veteran.
According to a report in the Naples Daily News, the officer was “fired from the Sheriff’s Office in August 2004. Eight pages in the Sheriff’s Office internal probe outline Calkins’ “lies and inconsistencies about what happened.”
The officer was the same man last spotted with Felipe Santos, a 23-year-old Mexican laborer, who disappeared just three months before. Williams’ mother was notified by the Mexican Consulate about the similarity in Santos’ case and that of her son’s. The officer says he dropped both men off in locations that were about four miles apart.
Asked to explain the two cases, Calkins told the Naples Daily News, “Coincidence extreme and that’s all it is. It was just bad luck. It was bad luck … I didn’t think anything of it.”
Calkins has not been charged with any crimes in relation to the two missing persons cases.
That hasn’t stopped Perry from pursuing justice in the case.
The Collier County Sheriff’s office said in a statement that both men are considered endangered missing persons.
“Both Williams and Santos are considered missing and endangered and both were last seen in the company of now-fired deputy Steve Calkins,” the sheriff’s department noted in a news release today.
Both Sharpton and Jealous agreed.
“The only way to turn a cold case into a live case is turn up the heat,” said Jealous. “The NAACP has not forgotten about Mr. Williams, Mr. Santos and this deputy who remains of interest.”
“This kind of issue requires all of us black, white, Latino, Asian, rich and poor to come together,” said Sharpton of the now-multi-agency investigation into the men’s disappearances.
Showing the power of Perry’s efforts, a man came forward during the news conference and began crying. He said he had information regarding the case and felt that his life was in danger.
“Be here for my safety,” said the man.
Authorities have spoken to the man to determine if he has any relevant information.
Natalie Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, praised Perry’s efforts.
“We are pleased that Tyler Perry, Rev. Al Sharpton and Ben Jealous, President and CEO of NAACP, are using their platform to bring awareness to the disparity in media coverage of missing persons of color,” Wilson told NewsOne.
“Unfortunately, the disappearance of Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos are all too common in our communities. According to FBI statistics, 678,860 people in the United States were reported missing in 2011. Among those, about 40 percent, or 270,680 individuals, were people of color – that number continues to grow at an alarming rate. But with scant media attention yet plenty of stereotypes and other presumptions, this sector of the missing population has largely gone under the radar,” Wilson added.
Williams’ mother said she won’t stop until she has answers about what happened to her son.
“I’ll never give up,” said Marcia Roberts.
“Terrance has four children,” she said. “I have to have answers. I demand to have answers.”