Viewpoints

Josiah’s hat tells of a life cut short

Josiah's hat hangs on a lamppost, asking that we remember him

Josiah Humphreys was beaten to death three years ago at the corner of 18th and P streets.
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Josiah Humphreys was beaten to death three years ago at the corner of 18th and P streets.

The cowboy hat has been resting like a sentinel at the top of the streetlight for three years. It bears several weather-worn written remembrances from loved ones.

“Love you. Miss you.” “Rest in peace Josiah.” From sidewalk level, it’s a tough read, but there they are.

I see this hat every day on my way home from work. Even though I don’t know who Josiah was, the words recall someone’s friend, a son, a brother, a lover. He was a 2003 Jesuit High School graduate who worked in real estate.

As a visual journalist, I’m a trained observer. That’s what photographers do. We see stuff and make mental notes. I wonder how many others do the same and take note of this ivory-colored hat with a smart brim at the top of the light pole at P and 18th streets in midtown Sacramento. Do they know why it has been there since the night of March 18, 2013?

The hat recalls the life of Josiah Humphreys, who was 28 when he was beaten to death at the corner of P and 18th in the early morning of March 17, 2013, a Sunday.

Sacramento police detectives say no arrests have been made in the case. There are no suspects. There was a $15,000 reward. Although the case is cold, police ask the community to come forward with any information. Homicide cases are never closed, until there is an arrest.

Neighbors came out of their homes, and 50 friends and family members gathered on the corner of P and 18th to remember Josiah Humphreys, and pray.

I love my neighborhood. I walk to and from work. I walk to shop. I walk to restaurants. I walk to make pictures. It’s home. That Josiah died violently is haunting.

I photographed Josiah’s vigil for The Sacramento Bee. It was solemn and pure sadness. Neighbors came out of their homes. About 50 friends and family members gathered on the corner of P and 18th to remember Josiah and pray.

A few friends purposefully hauled a ladder out the back of a truck and propped it against the streetlamp. A young man quickly climbed up and wired a hat onto the top. They attached calla lilies to the brim.

They stood silently in a semicircle. Candles were placed at the foot of the lamppost. Cars slowed as drivers tried to figure out what was happening. Gradually the crowd subsided, but the candles remained, as did the hat.

The hat is a symbol of Josiah’s life. And his death.

I do hope that one day the hat is gone, but only to mark the day there are answers for Josiah’s unexplained and senseless death. For now, his hat calls out, asking that we remember him even if we never knew him.

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