Say Their Name: The Story of Kaldrick Donald
Disclaimer: In our exclusive series, Say Their Name, DCP Entertainment takes a deeper look into the impact of the assault and killing of unarmed Black people by the police and in stand your ground states. We share the stories of families who have been negatively impacted by the police. We did not talk to officers or governing bodies—just the families and their support systems. We are not the court of law, nor do we try to be. For legal purposes we are not here to presume guilt or innocence for anyone, because, quite frankly, we do not want to be sued. We simply want to give the families a voice while examining what happens when the hashtags stop and the news unfortunately moves on to the next big story. All we want is to give the families the opportunity to control their narrative and share ways we can all help.
“As a kid, he was out there. He’d be dressy. He ironed. He’d use a whole can of starch on one pair of pants until the teacher would say, ‘I’m going to bring my clothes to your house and let Kaldrick iron them.’ I say, ‘Well you better bring a can of starch for every pair of pants you got, because that’s how he do it.’”
That’s how Juanita Donald remembers her son, Kaldrick Donald.
“He liked to play. He didn’t ask for much. He wanted his bicycle. He had his game and that was it,” remembers Juanita.
Kaldrick was born on August 2nd, 1990. He spent most of his life living with his sister Shameka, his mom Juanita (known by friends and family as Lois), and her partner Gerald.
They lived in Gretna, Florida—a town so small it has just one stoplight and one road in and out. Everyone knows everyone in Gretna, say Juanita and Gerald.
Juanita had Kaldrick and Shameka when she was still in her teens. Kaldrick didn’t spend much time with his biological father growing up. He was eight years old the last time he saw his dad.
Gerald was the prominent male figure in Kaldrick’s life. He remembers how protective Kaldrick was of his mom and how he and Kaldrick would get into (playful) wrestling matches.
Gerald and Juanita describe how Kaldrick loved to rap and was ahead of his time when it came to his rhymes.
“We would be around sometimes listening to the radio and I say, ‘Lois, that song—[Kaldrick] was rapping it three, four years ago. They just coming out with it,’” says Gerald.
They also describe Kaldrick’s trusting nature and giving spirit.
“He was the type that worried about everybody else but himself,” says Gerald.
“Everybody,” adds Juanita. “I could go take him to town and buy him a pair of shoes—he go right over across the field and give them away.”
Kaldrick mostly kept to himself growing up. But around age 17 his family started to notice changes.
“He used to have friends, but then he start talking, like, ‘People ain’t right. Family ain’t right. Police ain’t right,’” says Juanita. “And that’s what he said every day.”
Juanita took Kaldrick to the Apalachee Center, a mental health facility in Tallahassee, Florida.
Kaldrick was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. The facility started him on injections of Haldol every two weeks. But he didn’t always take his medications, which led to problems at home.
By age 24, Kaldrick had been struggling with mental health issues for years. He had become extremely introverted and was paranoid about most people around him. Without regular medication, his anxiety and depression could get so bad that his mother would have to call the police to help him take his medication.
Local police officers knew the family and were aware of Kaldrick’s mental health issues. One officer in particular—Officer Carlos De La Cruz—was good at talking Kaldrick down when he was having severe bouts of anxiety.
Unfortunately, not all officers are as skilled as De La Cruz at dealing with mental health crises, and tragedy would soon strike.
On October 28th, 2014, at age 24, Kaldrick Donald was killed in his family’s home by Police Sergeant Charles Brown of the Gretna, Florida Police Department.
At the time of his death, Kaldrick had been experiencing mental health struggles dealing with severe anxiety and depression. Juanita had called the police for help getting Kaldrick to take his medication.
When Officer Brown arrived, Juanita made sure he knew her son was having a mental health crisis and that she just needed help getting him to take his medication.
But Juanita says Officer Brown not only dismissed her suggestions about how to approach Kaldrick, he also antagonized her and threatened to take both she and Kaldrick to jail.
When Kaldrick saw Officer Brown, he told his mom he didn’t want to talk to him, saying Officer Brown had pulled a gun on him before. Juanita immediately questioned Officer Brown, but he ignored her and started aggressively pursuing Kaldrick.
Brown followed Kaldrick around the yard and into the house, according to Juanita.
That’s when things escalated.
According to the family’s wrongful death attorney, Craig Brown, “And so they get into the scuffle right at the doorway and the hall separating the [bedroom and bathroom] and they get into a fight. The officer tries to tase Kaldrick. And according to the officer, his taser didn’t really work. We found a taser prong. So, they kept engaging. They get into this fight. The fight carries over into the bathroom.”
“By the time my feet hit the second step, all I hear is pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. And I’m like, fall back, like what’s going on?” says Juanita.
Juanita went into the house to find her son shot. “The last thing I heard Kaldrick say was, Meka, go get my mama.”
Kaldrick lie dead in the bathroom of his mother’s house.
Juanita and her daughter Meka—who was several months pregnant at the time—rushed out of the house, afraid Officer Brown might kill them, too.
Neighbors rushed over to comfort Juanita and Meka.
The family’s attorney, Craig Brown, believes Kaldrick’s tragic killing could have been prevented if Officer Brown had been trained to deal with mental health crises and had called in a local mental health specialist.
But as he learned more details about the incident that left Kaldrick dead, what attorney Brown found was troubling.
Before Kaldrick was shot, Officer Brown had called for backup. An officer from the sherrif’s office—Officer Barnes—was already on his way and allegedly told Officer Brown to wait for him to arrive.
Yet Officer Brown ignored that order and pursued Kaldrick anyway, instigating the deadly encounter.
Also, the night before he killed Kaldrick, Officer Brown had responded to an incident at a church in which Gerald says Brown “dragged the man out and beat him. Threw him across the ground and broke his shoulder in front of a bunch of church members.”
Officer Brown had been up all night by the time he got to Juanita’s house, and he was visibly agitated. Juanita believes this may have ultimately led to Kaldrick’s death.
During the investigation Officer Brown said he fired his gun three times, but the investigators pulled seven bullets out the bathroom wall where Kaldrick was shot—and three bullets out of Kaldrick’s body. Juanita says her son was shot nine times.
As he continued his investigation attorney Craig Brown discovered that Officer Brown had a history of alleged misconduct and harassment of Gretna’s residents. Kaldrick was afraid of him.
Attorney Brown filed suit against the city of Gretna, the police chief, and Officer Brown. But unfortunately, no charges were ultimately brought against Gretna or Florida Police Sergeant Charles Brown. The family received a meager $60,000 settlement, of which they only received $19,000 after legal expenses.
Without enough money to move out of the home where Kaldrick was killed, the family is constantly reminded of the tragedy—inside and outside of their home.
To this day Juanita won’t go into the bathroom where Kaldrick was shot. She hopes the family can someday remodel the bathroom to install a stand-up shower.
“I can’t stand to be around a bathtub. I don’t like bathtubs no more, at all,” says Juanita.
Even after the trauma of losing Kaldrick and the pain of not getting justice, the family continued to be harassed by Officer Brown.
In one incident, Gerald was inside a convenience store. Officer Brown was outside and allegedly threatened to pull a gun on Gerald in the presence of another low-ranking officer. Gerald feared for his life and called 911. Officers responded and security cameras were pulled, but Gerald ultimately decided not to pursue the case.
Gerald describes other instances of being harassed by Officer Brown, and the family says they now try to avoid even making eye contact with Brown when they see him around town.
“This the type of officer what we got out there in Gretna, Florida,” says Gerald.
Officer Brown has since been demoted from Sergeant to Corporal, but he’s still part of the force. Since the time of Kaldrick’s death, the police chief and several other officers have quit. Juanita and Gerald believe they left to get away from Officer Brown—because he’s that toxic.
Kaldrick’s family and attorney want to see better training of officers when it comes to handling mental health calls, and, better yet, more funding for professional mental health interventionists.
Attorney Craig Brown wants to see the courts take mental health into account when considering aggressive behavior. Because they currently don’t, an officer can legally respond to someone having a mental health crisis with the same aggression and force as someone who doesn’t have mental health issues. This, he says, will lead to more unnecessary tragedies.
But regardless of how or whether the system ever changes, nothing will bring Kaldrick back.
“He [Officer Brown] took the love of my life away,” says Juanita. “That boy loved his mom and I loved him too.”
Kaldrick Donald’s life mattered. We must never stop saying his name.
Hear the full story from Kaldrick’s family and the family’s attorney in our two-part podcast at https://www.dcpofficial.com/kaldrick-donald.
Here’s how you can help:
Donate to Kaldrick’s family. Help them move out of the house where Kaldrick was killed so they can find peace. CashApp - $LoisD71
DCP Entertainment is your destination for the underrepresented voice. We share stories you won’t find anywhere else. Check out all DCP’s Black podcasts at https://www.dcpofficial.com/