///TW: mental illness, suicide, drug abuse, abuse, trauma, police brutality
So, one thing I’ve always wanted to write about is the story of how my brother died. It’s not something I like to talk about… It’s a painful subject that I’d rather not bother others with.
To start out, I should mention that my brother committed suicide. That was almost exactly two years ago- January 8th, 2019. He was 42 years old, 12 years older than me… And I was outside when he died.
But let me back up.
My brother had a hard life. He had a different father than me, and while my dad was abusive, it was nowhere near his dad. When he was eight, my mom found him outside a gas station over 500 miles from where we live. He was involved with gangs and had over thirty-five arrests, some felonies for assault and battery, theft, and other things.
He had two kids that he wasn’t allowed to see. Both mothers refused for him to have a relationship with them, and he couldn’t get the police involved because of his record. He didn’t want anything to do with any law enforcement.
He was an alcoholic and dabbled in some drugs- mostly weed. Every time he went to jail, he’d come back and have to find a new job. Because of this, he bounced jobs.
He was married twice. Both women were insane. His last wife got hooked on pills while they were together, and their relationship failed. On top of that, there is speculation that my brother was physically abusive. But he’d never had any domestic charges filed against him due to it, so who knows what the truth is. He attracted crazy, or maybe he drove them crazy. Who knows.
Anyway, he was my older brother. One of those stereotypical ones that would kill anyone that messed with me. He threatened one of my ex’s and told him he’d better watch his back if he ever did anything to me. He was the best brother. I’d never ask for anyone better.
There are so many things that I could say about him, but this would go on forever. Maybe I’ll save that for another day.
A couple of years before he died, he told me that he had gotten with a girl he had loved since high school. This was after he had finally put down the alcohol. They got together, but I always had a weird feeling about her. I met her at the county detention center after he had gotten arrested for child support. She got pregnant and quit her job, leaving my brother to pay for everything. He was self-employed and didn’t have a lot of money. Around the same time, I had a miscarriage, which broke his heart.
I’d never seen him so happy when my nephew was born. He loved his son so much. I’ve never seen a relationship like their’s- my nephew followed him everywhere he went as soon as he learned to crawl. They were separable. However, he ended moving in with my parents because he and his girlfriend were having explosive arguments.
Fast forward to a year after that, and I noticed that my brother had lost an excessive amount of weight. As in, he weighed less than me. Skin and bones. The only explanation he’d give was that his girlfriend only cooked vegan meals. She was also skin and bones (you could see literally her bones). I never thought anything of it because he did shift up and down in weight sometimes.
About eight months before he died, he sat my step-father, mom, and I down and told us he had cancer; two nodes in one lung and one in his abdomen. He said that he had been going to a clinic when they found it. He already had a quarter-sized hole in his heart- treatment failed when he couldn’t afford the medication to keep the clamp from being rejected.
I didn’t know what to think about him having cancer. I was utterly dumbfounded- I rarely saw my brother crying, but he was. That night, I went to a bar by myself and got piss ass drunk and got in a fight with my husband about it.
My brother had mini-strokes for a long time, but he started to call me more often about them, saying he was bleeding from his ears and couldn’t move his arms. He was very forgetful- if he didn’t write things down, he’d forget it. This was also the first time that my mom suggested that he might be on meth. My brother denied it entirely, and I believed him. I mean, he had health problems, and that explained all his symptoms, right?
About three months after that, my brother came to my house and said he wanted to talk to me. We sat on the back porch, and he told me cancer had moved to his brain. They gave him roughly six months to live. He sat and cried. Another time, he asked me to go to a bar and sobbed, telling me that I was the one that should have had his son.
Come August, I had to have surgery. I was sitting at home one night, unable to sleep. I got a phone call from my brother at 1 am. He was in a rage and told me he had stolen my step-father’s gun, stating he would kill his girlfriend, my mom, then kill himself. My brother had a lot of anger issues, but this was a new level of rage. I finally calmed him down after he cursed me out, telling me he would get something to eat and sleep in his truck. He said he’d call me in 30 minutes.
When he didn’t call and didn’t answer the phone, I drove all over the city looking for him, not finding him. I finally got in touch with him the next day, and he stated he had gone to a friend’s house and passed out. Not long after this instance, my mom called me and said that he had a gun and wanted to kill her. I’d never heard her so scared, and I didn’t know what to do. She wouldn’t call the police. This was a trend- don’t call the police.
This came and passed. His son’s first birthday came, and we could tell my brother felt horrible. We assumed it was because of cancer. It was a great day otherwise.
The last time I saw my brother alive was on Christmas, 2018. He was in such high spirits. I hadn’t seen him joking and goofing around like that in a long time. It was a fantastic day. I’ll never forget it. I made everyone some muddy buddies, and he texted me after and said that I needed to make him more.
I never got to.
On January 7th, my mom called me and told me I needed to see her immediately… That it was about my brother.
I work in an office across the street from where she worked, so I went across as soon as possible. His girlfriend had called my mom, screaming that he was trying to kill her with a box cutter and kidnapping his son. She left several voicemails, and her brother called the police. My mom was fed up with her (this happened a lot). She said Chuck was threatening suicide and that she needed me to address it.
I told her no.
This was the first time I had ever said no to calling him about suicide. I can’t remember how many times I had stopped him, even driving out in the middle of the night. But this time… I don’t know. I thought that my mother trying to talk to him would help. She had a problem with getting irritated with him and saying things to piss him off. I fed her words to say to him. He had his son but met my step-father to give his son to him to take him home.
After that, he disappeared. No one could find him. Mind you, his truck was huge, and everyone knew who he was because of it. Later that evening, he finally called my mom and asked if she would buy him a pack of cigarettes and a Mountain Dew. My mom met him at the gas station. She bought what he’d asked for, gave it to him, and he disappeared when she had gone to get him something from her car. No one saw him until early morning when he called my step-father to ask if he could stop by to get some of his clothes. He did and disappeared once again.
On January 8th, I had an early meeting an hour and a half away from home. I got back home around 12:30 pm. At 1 pm, I got a call from my mother screaming. Their house was surrounded by SWAT. 50+ police cars were outside. My parents had my nephew with them- my brother was supposed to meet them at their home to see him. My brother’s truck was in the driveway, under their carport. He never parked there.
My step-father finally got an officer to talk to him, and they said that my brother was inside with a hostage- his son. My parents pleaded with the officers, saying that his son was in the car with them and no one but my brother could be in the house. They didn’t listen and wouldn’t let anyone get near the property.
“He might have a gun.”
I made the 40-minute drive in 15 minutes while calling him over and over. I’ll never forget that drive- weaving traffic and running traffic lights. When I pulled up, the officers told me I had to park in a church parking lot below their house after grilling me about who I was. They were screaming at my brother to come out of the house through a bullhorn. There were hundreds of people surrounding the house, shouting and cursing at my family, telling us how horrible my brother was. I ran to the officers in the church lot, telling them I’d be the only one to get him out, which would of been true. At that time, they finally let my step-father up to the property. The officer radioed the cops in front of the house and told them I was there. The negotiator yelled to my brother that I was outside and wanted to talk to him.
Throughout all of this, there was no noise coming from the house. My mom called me several times to go to a convenience store down the street where she had gone, asking me to bring her back. My step-brother and sister arrived and tried to bring her and the car to the church. Every time I went, she said she didn’t want to go.
Finally, I got back, where my step-father was standing in the church lot. I remember looking at him in the eyes and telling him my brother was dead. He slowly nodded his head, agreeing with me. I can’t explain how emotionless I was at that moment. I disassociate quickly with trauma- that’s my assumption of what happened.
I went to the nearby officers and told him that my brother had been suicidal and that there was no way he was alive. They said it didn’t matter and that they had to keep following ‘protocol.’
About that time, news trucks began to pull up behind us. My step-father had stepped forward to talk to some officers. The preacher from the church came out to check on us and offer any assistance at all. He was a good man. About that time, that’s when they began to throw canisters of tear gas through the windows. 6, to be precise. After that, two flashbangs. The tear gas blew downhill, and my eyes and throat stung for a while after. We couldn’t get SWAT to stop.
The news broadcasted live as officers used battering rams to break in windows. When I say windows, I mean every window in the house was broken but two.
People I didn’t recognize began to run up to me, screaming and crying. It turns out it was some of his friends. They’d seen the news and rushed over.
“God, Chuck, no. Not Chuck. What the fuck did he do.”
I watched as my parent’s house was destroyed. Their animals were locked inside as they grenaded the house, and we weren’t sure if they were dead or alive. Finally, everything stopped. We saw a coroner pull up alongside the house.
My mother called me, screaming and cursing me out. The news had released a statement that stated my brother was dead. They hadn’t even communicated with us yet. I went to where she was, and she punched me and called me every name in the book. I got her back to the lot, and she began to scream at cops. I told the newscasters how horrible they were, knowing that family was there and hadn’t heard anything.
I heard cops laughing and giving each other pats on the back. They were laughing. It still makes my blood boil. Soon, SWAT and all the cops left the scene. Newscasters and onlookers left next. We were left all alone.
After many hours sitting next to my mother outside her car, my brother was taken out in a red bag. A biohazard body bag. My mother sobbed.
The coroner came and talked to me. I told him I’d be handling everything because there was no way my mother could. I asked how he’d died, and he said that he died from a gunshot wound. He said that the shot had to of happened right after the first officer arrived. Apparently, my brother had been tailed to my parent’s house. He took off into the house, and the officer called for backup, stating a hostage situation after watching my brother pull up by himself and enter alone. The coroner also said that there’s no way that the officer couldn’t have heard the shot. It was from my step-father’s 357 Magnum.
I was given a card and told that I would get a call after the autopsy. My mom asked if her dogs were okay, but they said they couldn’t find them. They assumed that they were under my brother’s bed, where he’d shot himself. We asked if we could go in and get some things- there was no way my parents could stay there.
My husband, step-brother, and step-sister went in first while I searched my brother’s truck. His phone was still attached to its mount.
When I went in, my senses were assaulted by the teargas, and there was a haze in the air. My husband had checked the room where my brother died for the dogs. I can’t imagine that scene. It turns out they hid under my parent’s bed, but no one could see them.
The house had been destroyed. Furniture had been overturned, priceless figurines and family mementos destroyed. They had broken through the ceiling and moved appliances. The officers stated that my brother had done all these things, but the coroner negated that. He’d died too close to the time of the first cop’s arrival. When my step-father asked an officer about the damages, he said, ‘call your insurance company, that’s not our problem.’
After the last crew member left, we tried to find a place for my parents to stay with their dogs. They refused to come home with us. Their cats were missing. Finally, we found a hotel. For the next four months, they lived in a hotel while someone watched their dogs.
I can’t accurately say how much they lost. Clean up crews came and went. Furniture was also burnt and destroyed.
I had to start taking care of funeral arrangements immediately. My mom stated she’d try to help, but my step-father was hospitalized the day after my brother died due to his heart. I took on everything- funeral planning, financing, insurance on the house, and so much more. My mom wanted my brother buried near my father, and there was one grave plot left—$6k. The funeral was $3,500. Through people who donated through GoFundMe and other income sources I found, such as taking out a loan, I managed to pay for it. I fought with family that said I was spending too much money to put him in the same cemetary.
One time, when I was planning with the funeral home, I glanced down at my shoe and saw there was blood on it—my brother’s. I almost passed out. My husband also went into his room to get things for me (we were afraid they’d be thrown away during cleaning) and came out sobbing.
I should mention that the preacher next to my mom’s house kept an eye on everything. He noticed that my brother’s truck had a flat tire and took it upon himself to fix it and put it back on. He also offered his church and services free of charge.
I chose the songs- one my mother decided that I can’t remember. Styx’s Sail Away and See You Again by Wiz Khalifa (a cover). My brother wasn’t religious. During the wake, the funeral director told me that they had a Bluetooth and could play whatever I wanted. I played songs about drinking whiskey and smoking weed. I wore my brother’s Tennessee Volunteers sweatshirt to both the wake and funeral. Nervously, I spoke. I had managed to keep it together all that time until one of my friends came to me, and I had a breakdown.
At the funeral, my mother and I stood at my brother’s casket and played Conway Twitty’s Rocky Top. We laughed, and people stared.
I remember sitting at the cemetery and watching him being lowered into the ground. His two year old son screaming ‘daddy’s gone, daddy’s gone.‘
After this, I was unable to grieve for a long time, and I still haven’t been able to go through the process. I disassociated so much that I couldn’t feel the pain. I took care of my mother. I worked on his truck. I stayed late at my job. However, there were meltdowns. Two times left the house with a bottle of whiskey and drove drunk, one time after drinking 2 1/2 pints of whiskey. I drank just to drink.
I waited for months for the results of the toxicology and autopsy. I had to get my brother’s belongings on his body, including a knife with blood. He tested positive for alcohol, two strains of weed, Adderall and meth.
On top of this, I found out that he had never had cancer. He lied about it to all of us. I’d never been so hurt, felt so betrayed. Why would you lie about something like that? My only guess is it was to hide his meth addiction.
I miss him. I have a hole in my heart, and it hurts every day. Until recently, I didn’t feel guilt. But, I do now. If I had called him that day, maybe he’d be here. If I had believed he was on drugs, I could have helped him. ‘What ifs‘ are pointless, but they still linger.
I have a lot of anger- at my brother, at law enforcement, at the news. As I said before, my brother was no stranger to the police. I am confident that every cop in the county came to take him down when they heard his name. I have no doubt in my mind about that. His name and place is plastered across our state and nearby ones, even now, naming him an abuser and kidnapper. This will never go away. It will never be erased.
I’ve been asked when I’m going to get over it, even by people close to me. I don’t understand how that could be said to me. I would wish this on no one. To lose your rock, someone that has been there your entire life. Even if he wasn’t the best person in the world… He was my brother.
He IS my brother.
Here is some footage taken by newscasters at the scene.