Just Six More Steps…A houseless mentally ill man is murdered after one night in Santa Rita county jail

POOR correspondent - Posted on 23 June 2010

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

“ Mr. Freeman. .Mr. Freeman…are you listening to me.. I need you to understand me…you are no longer allowed on Telegraph avenue – if you are seen there, you will be arrested…”

The Tall man with the gray-black beard barely nodded while knocking his thin frame against the confines of his bright Orange Alameda county jail outfit. If he could only just focus on his feet – he knew he would be ok , but there was a wall in each direction . Steps.. he would just focus on the steps...

Six steps, just six more steps, If he could just get a little further. He walked straight like he always did. How far could he go? He would just keep walking like nothing. He wasn’t gonna stop for nobody. If he could just pass this intersection....

Kevin Lee Freeman was a houseless mentally disabled man who had walked back and forth on Telegraph Av for over 20 years. He talked to no one. No one talked to him, “ He was a fixture on Telegraph,” Osha Neuman, an advocate and lawyer for low-income and houseless folks in the East Bay commented.

Last year a judge ruled that due to the fact that people just didn’t like him, especially store owners on Telegraph ave, he would have to stop walking on the one street he knew.

“ I’m not gonna stop for anyone, no matter what…just six steps more...”

“ But he kept coming back to Telegraph and the police kept putting him in jail – the last time he was in court on some minor homeless violation, I think it was public drunkenness, the judge sent him to Santa Rita county jail up in Pleasanton” , Osha related Mr. Freemans horrific tale to me in a somber slow cadence, “he was put in a cell with another mentally disturbed man. The next morning the guard was called to their cell only to find an extremely bloody scene, parts of Mr. Freeman’s brain matter smeared on the wall, his cell mate killed him by beating him to death with his bare hands…”

Osha went on to explain that they have basically no mental health services available for folks in Alameda County and no beds for alcoholics like Mr. Freeman who might want to detox, and that what happened to Mr. Freeman was a frightening example of .the criminalization of homelessness reaching a new level…”

I thought about some of the scholarship on mental illness that I had learned at the anti-psychiatry conference and protest that was held in San Francisco this last week.. “The question is what is madness? Is it a fixed notion or is it really conceived by a society that is pathologized by the Mental Health industry,” mental health survivor and advocate Michelle Curran commented on a panel at the conference. I wondered if Mr. Freeman was really “ crazy” or just unlikable

“ I just didn’t like the guy, he was mean, scary and ugly ” a woman who worked on Telegraph av remembered him when I described him, “ He just wasn’t nice”

Steps …. I take 6 steps and then six more ...


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