Community members in Maine are mourning the loss of a prominent Black activist who was killed in a hit and run incident over Juneteenth weekend.
Nicole Mokeme, a 35-year-old mother of one, was attending a Black Excellence Retreat in partnership with the Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park when she was fatally struck by a 2016 Black BMW SUV sometime between Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
Authorities from the Maine State Police Department said the vehicle was registered to Raymond Lester, Mokeme’s alleged lover of more than three years, according to local news outlet the Press Herald. However, as of Friday morning, it remained unclear whether he was driving the vehicle during the time of the incident. Police have asked the public to keep an eye out for the vehicle which contains the Maine license plate number 5614WM.
“This is still a very active investigation,” state police spokesperson Shannon Moss told the Press Herald. “Law enforcement is still actively looking for Lester.”
According to Mokeme’s Facebook, she and Lester, also 35, had known each other for years before they began dating. On Valentine’s Day last year, Mokeme detailed a few facts about her relationship with Lester, noting how he was “impatient” and “sensitive.”
Raymond Lester has a history of domestic abuse
Court records show that Lester has had an extensive criminal history of domestic violence. In 2008, the Portland native was charged with a domestic violence assault incident. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 22 days in jail. Lester was also ordered to pay a $300 fine.
Trouble came knocking on Lester’s door again in 2010 after he was charged with theft and domestic assault, for which he was ordered to serve 45 days in jail.
He was also arrested multiple times between 2012 and 2021 on charges of “misuse of identification, drug possession, theft, disorderly conduct, refusing to submit to arrest, felony-level receiving stolen property, and forgery,” the Press Herald noted.
Lester’s history stands in stark contrast to Mokeme, who was the creative director of the Rise and Shine Youth Retreat, an organization helping to liberate and empower communities of color in Maine. The passionate activist was well respected for her advocacy work. She was also helping to organize the Black Excellence Retreat when the devastating incident occurred.
“She was probably one of the most forgiving, patient, and encouraging people. She wanted to see you do great, no matter what you were doing,” Moon Machar, a friend of Mokeme, told the News Center Maine.
Rev. Kenneth I. Lewis Jr., Mokeme’s Reverend at the Green Memorial AME Zion Church in Portland, said she was beginning to build “a legacy” with her focus on racial equality.
“I think Nicole wanted to exude all layers of life and engage people in every aspect of self-determination, inner strength, faith,” he added.
According to the Rise and Shine Youth Retreat’s website, Mokeme was a mother and spent much of her time “learning and growing with her child.”