This. This is a story about a young black man in the south. This is a story about that young black man encountering police officers and having an unforgettable story to tell afterwards. This is the story of Mr. Fred Barley and I’m telling you right now without any equivocation… Fred’s life matters. And so do the lives of the officers who came to his aid.
Police were called to a campsite near the campus of Gordon State College in Barnesville, Georgia on July 9. When they arrived, they found a 19-year-old homeless man living in a tent hidden in bushes adjacent to a parking lot.
The officers demanded that the young man, Fred Barley, step out of the tent with his hands raised. It was at this moment that what happened to Barley became the antithesis of the horrific police shootings that have happened across the United States in recent weeks.
When Barley emerged he shared with the officers the reasons as to how his life found him living out of a tent. And, this is important, the officers listened to what he had to say and realized immediately they were in the presence of a very special young man.
You see, Fred had borrowed his younger brother’s 20-inch bicycle and pedaled for nearly 6 hours and a distance of 50 miles to arrive extra early so that he could attend his second year of college as a biology major. All he had to his name was the tent, a duffel bag, 2 gallons of water and a box of cereal.
Mr. Barley wanted to arrive in town early so that he could find work to cover himself while he continued his education. The dorms were not opened yet so he opted for trying to rough it out in the tent. He was spending his days riding to various businesses to fill out applications. Fred’s no “taker,” a pejorative term that some like to accuse today’s youth, especially young blacks and other ethnic minorities, of being.
Well, Fred actually is a taker in that he’s taken what could seem like the most difficult of circumstances and pushed those limitations to chase down his dream of attending medical school. As for the police that found him that day? They weren’t thoughtless, racist machines — a brutish portrait that the vast majority of men and women in law enforcement who carry their duty with dignity and honor feel is being unjustly painted of them.
Officer Dicky Carreker, of the Barnesville police, told WSBTV, “After meeting Fred, I could tell he was a good kid. He was a young kid who had been dealt a bad hand and was trying to make the best out of it. All he wanted was a job.”
Carreker and Officer Maria Gebelein took it upon themselves to give Fred all the cash they had on hand. And that’s no petty offer folks. Police have a sometimes impossible job and they sure as heck ain’t climbing into the one percent doing it. They also took Fred to a nearby hotel and each paid for one night’s stay.
Fred’s story has gotten out and everyone’s looking to do their part as a community to help. The college is letting him in early, a place gave him a job on the spot and thousands of dollars are being raised online to help pay for his education.
Sometimes, you know sometimes, we as Americans, together, have the capacity to do the best things.
As for Fred, his thoughts on all the help and attention reflect a young man who is not only appreciative, but thoughtful about what it means in relationship to the disconnect between minorities and the police who are hired to serve and protect us all.
“(The officer) was so understanding, and he said, ‘I definitely I applaud you for doing this. We can’t allow you to stay here, but I have somewhere you can stay. The stuff that’s happening with police officers, I am black and he didn’t care what color I was. He just helped me, and that meant a lot… I was not expecting any of this support and am in awe of how this community has come together to help me. I was just trying to go to school, find a job and make it on my own. Now it seems as though I am part of a new community and have a new family.”
Mr. Fred Barley and the dedicated officers who performed their job with excellence remind of this, we can do better.
HT to Raw Story for their coverage.