Blood still stains the front porch of Albena Mensai’s new Detroit home.
It’s there where she held her partner of 17 years, pressing a towel against the bullet wound in his back, hushing his screams of pain.
The couple had argued the night before. Now, as he lay dying, David Adams apologized.
“I told him don’t worry about it,” said Mensai, 42. “I said we weren’t gonna talk about that.”
Adams cried and tried to sit up: “God, don’t let me die right now.” Mensai assured him that he wouldn’t.
Within an hour, he was gone.
Adams, 35, was buried Monday after a quiet service at Fisher Funeral Home in Redford Township.
To Mensai, he’s a hero, having taken a bullet while rushing to protect their 13-year-old developmentally disabled son, Joseph James, from gunfire March 16.
To others, he symbolizes more: another innocent victim of Detroit crime.
A father, a partner, a hero, a victim
The four girls stood shoulder to shoulder, barely tall enough to see into the casket.
Inside was the man they knew as Uncle Davie — eyes closed, hands pressed together, wearing a suit that seemed unlike the cutup and jokester that the girls had known all their lives.
Her first close-up with death was too much for 6-year-old Brianna Adams. She broke into tears, ran to a relative and buried her face as she sobbed.
“She’s been taking it pretty rough,” said Ronnie Adams, Brianna’s father and the deceased man’s brother. “I just tell her … I tell her he’s in a better place.”
He hasn’t explained that David Adams Jr. — Uncle Davie — was killed in what police say was pointless cross fire by a man upset that his car was stolen.
“She’s too young to know that right now,” Ronnie Adams said.
While others in his Detroit west side neighborhood had ducked for cover when the gunshots rang March 16, David Adams sprang to his porch to shield his 13-year-old developmentally disabled son. As he bent forward to grab the boy, he took two bullets — one in the chest, another in the back — and fell to the porch screaming.
“It was over something so stupid,” said Albena Mensai, his girlfriend of 17 years. “Why would someone do that? Walk outside and just start shooting?” The shooter “didn’t stop to think about nobody but himself.”
Pain, anger and guilt
David Adams’ story is not unique in Detroit, though police say it’s impossible to quantify how many of the city’s 350-plus homicides each year are victims caught in cross fire.
What they do know is this: Only 82, or 23%, of the 364 homicides reported last year were committed by people who knew the victim, based on cases where the shooter has been identified.
Cross fire took the lives in recent years of Dmitri Jackson, a 19-year-old shot outside a recreation center by a 15-year-old who had a beef with another teen. Edward Houston, a 49-year-old bystander in a road rage incident was struck by an errant bullet. And Korey Reid, a 12-year-old, was shot in the head in a drive-by while crossing the street near a car wash.
Those names are just a few examples and would have meant little to Mensai before she found herself in the same situation, she said through tears.
“Oh, I’m mad,” Mensai said. “There’s no sense to it.”
The pain of the loss is compounded by anger over the randomness, David Adams’ family said.
And then there’s the guilt.
Adams had wanted to move away from Detroit. He was sick of the violence. He wanted to raise his and Mensai’s children in a safer place, someplace where life is valued and youngsters could play on the porch without worrying about drive-bys.
He and Mensai had tried out other states — Alabama and Idaho among them — but Detroit was Mensai’s home, and she found a foreclosed house three down from her sister’s on Littlefield near Chalfonte.
She persuaded Adams they should buy the fixer-upper with a $5,000 price tag so that they could stop running in place as renters and have financial security for their children.
“I hate I even came back,” Mensai said as she sat at a table in the dingy dining room that she and Adams planned to repair and repaint. “He kept telling me we outta leave. I should have listened.”
Mensai — who Adams called by her given name, Hester, rather than her African name, Albena — said the two planned to finally marry.
“We had our ups and downs, just like anybody,” she said.
The night before the shooting, they fought over an ex-boyfriend, she recalled. By morning, they had made up. Within hours, she was on the phone with 911, trying to stop the bleeding.
“I didn’t think he would die,” she said. “I thought it was just his back.”
But one of the bullets had pierced his liver. Mensai said she last saw him alive as he was wheeled down a hospital hallway for surgery. He cried out to her: “Honey!”
David Adams Jr. was the oldest of seven children. His father worked as a security guard, while mother Erma Adams stayed home with the brood.
Ronnie Adams said his brother was an active boy growing up with an artistic flair: His drawing was skilled beyond doodling.
David Adams upset his family when he dropped out of high school at 16, but Ronnie Adams said his brother jumped into the workforce early, first as a roofer, then later as a mechanic.
“He got a job turning a wrench,” Ronnie Adams said. “It was something he loved to do, something he stuck with until the day he died.”
In fact, David Adams was working on a beater moments before the bullets started flying, Mensai said. He’d gone inside to grab a coat hanger so he could jerry-rig the muffler until parts came in to fix it, she said.
Just then, she heard an unmistakable pop-pop-pop. She ducked, then yelled at her children to run inside. Adams’ daughter Mellisa, 8, and Akili and Aaron James, ages 15 and 17 — who were Mensai’s from previous relationships but called David Adams “Dad” — obliged.
Thirteen-year-old Joseph James, who is developmentally disabled and has albinism — a lack of pigment in his hair, skin and eyes — stayed put, slow to grasp what was happening. David Adams, instinctively protective of his son, bolted out onto the porch, Mensai said.
She’s convinced he saved Joseph’s life.
Two days later, Joseph turned 14. His mother wept.
“He doesn’t even know his daddy’s gone,” she said shortly before people arrived for birthday cake and presents. “If it weren’t for David, he wouldn’t be here today.”
Joseph didn’t grasp that his father was gone until the visitation last Sunday. He kissed his cold face, then turned to his mother and said, “Daddy’s dead.”
Witnesses say the shooting appeared to be a beef a man down the street had when he spotted his stolen car driving by and opened fire with an AK47. The car’s occupants fired back, and the bullets rained down the block.
“I didn’t think the bullets would go all that way,” Mensai said. The home is several houses away from the corner of Littleton and Chalfonte, where the shooting began.
Ronnie Adams said, “There’s plenty of anger” over the reckless, deadly shooting. “There’s a lot of it.”
Much of it stems from not knowing exactly what happened and why. Hoping to glean clues, Ronnie Adams has pored through the hospital reports. He said he believes someone knows more than they’re saying.
A 20-year-old injured in the gunfire and believed to have been part of the shootout was questioned by police, but refused to cooperate. Police spokesman John Roach said investigators don’t have enough evidence to charge him. No one else has been arrested.
Haunted by the image of his brother laid out in the hospital, Ronnie Adams said he’s searching for that figment called closure.
“I’d feel a whole lot better if they found who did it,” he said. “I want to know.”
Source:freep.com/BY AMBER HUNT