“I didn’t know I was praying for myself”: Remembering Richard Perkins Jr.

Photo: Ada Perkins-Henderson, mother of Richard Perkins Jr., posing with his son Richard Perkins III.

Interview with Ada Perkins-Henderson

In 2015, Oakland police shot and killed 39-year-old father of two Richard Perkins Jr. He was unarmed. Richard is survived by his mother, Ada Perkins-Henderson, and two children. Ada spoke to our reporter Lucy Kang from her backyard, two blocks from where Richard was killed. 

The Alameda County District Attorney’s office cleared the four officers responsible of any criminal charges. The names of the officers who killed Richard Perkins are Sergeant Joseph Turner, and officers Jonathan Cairo, Joshua Barnard and Allahno Hughes. Joseph Turner, despite a track record of abuses against community members, oversees the Oakland police department policy unit. 

The following is an edited excerpt from a longer interview with Ada Perkins-Henderson:


My name is Ada Perkins-Henderson.

Richard, my baby son, my last child – he loved to smile. He loved to play. He was very friendly. He helped people. He [was] the only child out of five [who] graduated from high school. And he was the smartest one of all.

He loved building things. He loved planting. He planted a tree outside in the yard for me,  a flower bush. And I mean it’s growing too. And he was my only child that would come and help me garden. He was the only child [to] come over and he’d say, mama, can I come mow your yard today? What you need me to do? I’ve been lost without my son. That’s the kind of child he was.

He was a good young man. He was a good father. He took care of the children. He did the best he could for them. He worked. He worked on a garbage truck. He had a fork lifting license, small engine license. And he was a bus driver. He had a commercial license too, 18 wheeler. He went to 18 wheeler school. Yeah. He was about to do that.

He did a lot of stuff. And then he did some stuff I wasn’t proud of. But I saw that he was trying to do better. And he did. He was doing better. He was trying to get his life together. But he still had little problems. He was on drugs, a little bit. He was on drugs. I ain’t gonna lie. He was. But all the good things, the bitter mixed with the sweet – that’s what makes you.

It’s not easy. That I will never see my child again – that hurts.

They shot him, three rookies and one sergeant. They killed my baby. They shot him over 20 times. You don’t even kill a pig like that.

I was out there praying for somebody else’s child. I didn’t know I was praying for myself. Me and some old ladies, I said, come on, let’s hold hands, and let’s pray for that family. I didn’t know I was praying for myself. I prayed. I said they done kill somebody’s son, somebody’s child. But I didn’t know it was my own baby.

“I was out there praying for somebody else’s child. I didn’t know I was praying for myself.”

They call me on the phone two days later. A Tuesday, I’ll never forget that.

I had to stay strong. I never seen him again til they called and told me Tuesday, that Tuesday morning that they killed my baby.

So I’ve never been the same since. To lose a child, the way they killed my baby. And all over the world, they’re still killing people’s babies. They’re still killing our young men. I’m praying for justice that they stop, change their police, where they been hurting people, murdering our people right on TV. They don’t give a dog-gone.

And that’s the honest to God truth.

I want justice for my son. I’m still fighting for justice for my son and the other families and that police will not get away with killing our people.

I still march, fighting for justice, walking for justice. I take me a pain pill, (laughs) and I have me a water bottle, cold. I’m still fighting. I’m still marching, but it’s the way you do it. We don’t stop. When you start it, don’t stop. Always fight. Always fight.

And I’m gonna do it til the day I die.


This story is part of the series TAKEN FROM US: Remembering lives lost to police violence.

This piece was reported and produced by Lucy Kang.

First aired on UpFront on June 30, 2020