November 8, 2007 -
While we await the arrival of the judge from his chambers, there is small talk to my left, someone telling another of renovations on his home, and small talk to my right, possible upcoming indictment of an elected official. Often, we fill painful moments with small talk. As I wait, I look at the faces of the cops who packed that courtroom. I remember most of them being in Kings County Hospital the night Dillon was shot. I see many of the same faces in this courtroom. I take deep breaths, which seems to keep my tears from falling. I see Dillon's family. Over the last two years, I have watched their strength and the love in their faces shine clearer through the clouds of their pain and sadness.
The "perp," is Allan Cameron, Dillon's murderer - I try to imagine him as a toddler, when hopefully, someone loved him, when he had a potential future of hope, goodness, and an ability to bring happiness to our world, when he smiled and laughed, before he would harm and forsake others as a way of life. In less than an hour, he will be sentenced to "life, without parole."
In a courtroom packed with cops in suits, his mother and a young man in casual dress sit in the third row behind him. She looks either stunned, but more likely detached (if that is possible). Was she intimidated, ashamed in the presence of Dillon's family and all those 70 Precinct cops? Did she really want to be there? Or was it the "right thing" for a mother who may have given up on her son years ago to be in that courtroom for him this day? I wonder what kind of life has he lived that no one else was there for him in that court room?
Dillon's mother Winifred made the first impact statement before the judge. She spoke of the unimaginable pain of a parent losing a child, and how her life will never be the same again. Dillon's sister Sheryl managed her address through a steady stream of tears, referring to her brother Dillon as the love of her life. Leslyn was the final family member who spoke for Dillon. With a strong voice, it was as if she took command of the courtroom. Courageously, she channeled all of her emotions and delivered a presidential like address. She reminded Dillon's murderer, and all in the courtroom that the life she knew ended when Dillon died. Frequently throughout her statement, Leslyn finished a sentence, with her voice becoming louder each time she said it, "life, without parole."
Judge Albert Tomei spoke of a century's progress in science, lamenting that when it comes to humanity and the way we treat each other, we are still in the dark ages. He added, "Hopefully one day we as humanity will emerge from the darkness." Judge Tomei then condemned Allan Cameron to spend "life in a soulless, loveless, compassionless environment" and sentenced him to the maximum sentence, "life without parole."
Cameron never turned toward his mother as the court officers took him away, into a life of incarceration, which in a way is an extended and drawn out death sentence.
The 70 cops were true professionals; none applauded after the judge pronounced the sentence. Instead, they remained in a somber and respectful silence.
The court was adjourned. Dillon's mom, his sister and wife Leslyn, and the rest of his family would be the last to leave the courtroom. They graciously remained in those front rows to be greeted by the well-wishers - the coaches - the assistant district attorneys, the 70 cops, and the executive board members of the PBA.
When they left, the courtroom was empty. There will be other trials in that courtroom. However, the nearly two-year ordeal of Dillon Stewart's family, the NYPD, and our city of law-abiding citizens did not end there. It will be a part of our lives forever. We will remember Dillon, his smile, his love of his family, his pride as a man, and as an NYPD officer.
We will hold Detective Dillon Stewart as a model of what is right in our world. We will remember that no evil will deter goodness, no hate can kill love, and no selfishness can overpower selflessness. Dillon will remain a beacon, an icon, a symbol of what is good, what is righteous. He will be one of our guiding lights, as we emerge from the darkness.
Written the night of Allan Cameron's sentencing