CHATHAM — Amid the protests that rocked Chicago in the last week, one protester stood out.
Day after day, cameras captured a young man staring down police officer after police officer.
The tense, often nose-to-nose stare downs became a staple of the coverage that followed the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video, bringing the protester praise in some circles and disgust in others — including among his fellow protesters.
The owner of that intense stare is Lamon Reccord. And he's just 16 years old.
“That’s just another way of protesting,” Lamon said. “You know, I decided to take my skills to a whole new level and see what I could do. I was not trying to provoke a response out of the officers.”
Standing eye-to-eye with police, Lamon wanted an answer to one question: “What if you had a son and police shot him 16 times? I wanted them to start thinking about that.”
With such a fiery glare, you might imagine Lamon’s heart pumping out of his chest with anger. The teen said that’s not what he feels at all.
“Honestly, I feel nothing,” Lamon said. “That’s the whole point of me staring, is to give a look where they know: ‘Hey, he’s 16. He’s out here making a difference. He’s gonna be the one that actually makes a difference in the city of Chicago.’”
The shooting video was released Nov. 24, just hours after Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with murdering Laquan McDonald. It shows Van Dyke pumping 16 shots into McDonald, who was walking down the middle of Pulaski Road, holding a knife.
Protesters, including Lamon, soon filled the streets. And Lamon's face offs were soon recorded and distributed by activists and journalists.
The teen’s bold moves even landed him a mention by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who said his eyeball-to-eyeball methods were inappropriate.
“We’re seeing an extraordinary moment,” Kelly said, as a clip of Lamon played across the screen. “Look what’s happening here.”
The video — showing Lamon staring at a Chicago officer standing outside the department’s Central District headquarters at 1718 S. State St. — sparked a debate between Kelly and radio host Richard Fowler.
“This is a cop out there accused of doing nothing wrong, trying to keep the peace,” Kelly said.
“This guy is having a silent protest with this police officer,” Fowler said. “This is his First Amendment right.”
“He gets right in his face and stares him down?” Kelly asked. “This cop hasn’t done anything wrong.”
Lamon is an Englewood native who was adopted by family members two days after birth. He said he left a toxic relationship with his adoptive family at 15 to live with his aunt in Chatham.
He's not currently in school. He got kicked out for fighting, he said, but hopes to earn his GED.
He said he doesn't care what Fox News, or anybody else for that matter, has to say about his protest methods, which start off almost meditative:
“I clear my mind, and I just look at them,” Lamon said. “And I’ll be like, ‘I can’t believe you officers kill kids.'"
Since he stepped in the protest spotlight, Lamon has had to battle naysayers claiming he’s a plant, gangbanger and bum.
Hate-filled remarks and accusations clutter the comments section of Lamon's public Facebook page. Most of the teen's detractors appear to be white men and women.
One of the posts shows two pictures of Lamon — one of the teen standing with former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and another of him standing with Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union.
The post labels Reccord a “Paid a------ by the Chicago Teachers Union.”
“For those not from Chicago,” the post reads, “the stare down boy is a paid protestor [sic] for the Chicago politicians. If anyone really believes these protests are legit THINK AGAIN.”
It’s all bogus, Lamon said.
“You guys need to know more about me and bring that a-- out here and protest with me,” Lamon said. “You guys [going] off what another person says will get you nowhere.”
Lamon has even faced criticism from fellow protesters in the streets.
When protests began on State Street the day the city released the Laquan McDonald footage, some protesters said Lamon's stare down tactics were too aggressive, assumed he wanted a fight and tried to hold him back.
The run-in sparked a few heated moments and cursing matches.
“I don’t want people touching me when I’m protesting and doing my thing,” Lamon said. “As soon as somebody touches me, I go off.
"You protest the way you protest, and I protest the way I protest," he said.
At home, Lamon's family stands behind him.
The aunt he lives with in Chatham saw him pop up on the news several times during the protests.
“She’s for it,” Lamon said of his aunt, who did not want to comment for this story.
“I’m proud of him,” said Lamon’s 33-year-old sister Lenett Wilson, the oldest of nine siblings, all put up for an in-family adoption when they were young. “I will always back his corner.”
You might wonder where Lamon’s passion for activism was born.
Look at his right arm, and you’ll find an answer: A tattoo of a name.
In April 2014, 14-year-old Endia Martin was shot and killed by another girl in a fight over a boy. Endia and Lamon were best friends.
The girl’s death took the teen’s world into a violent spiral.
“It was real hard to deal with her death,” Lamon said.
On most days, Lamon cried. On other days, he flipped over tables at school, knocked over computers and fought.
Endia died during Lamon’s freshman year at Chicago Vocational Career Academy.
“He was very distraught by it,” Wilson said. “He couldn’t understand how a life so young could go so quick over a disagreement or simple things.”
During his sophomore year, Lamon got kicked out for fighting during biology class. He said he plans to sign up for a nighttime GED program soon.
Though getting kicked out of school might seem like the end of the world to many teens and their families, Lamon focuses on the positive: He has more time for activism.
Remember that guy who had a staring contest with an officer yesterday? He's back. pic.twitter.com/RpzhtSeELQ— Kelly Bauer (@BauerJournalism) November 25, 2015
Before the the city released the Laquan McDonald video, Lamon identified with several nonprofit and activist organizations, including Chicago Freedom School and SMAC — Student Movement Against Cuts.
The footage of McDonald’s death led him to the streets as a protester with groups like Stop Mass Incarceration.
“That could be me laying on the ground,” Lamon said. “I could have been in Laquan’s shoes."
Lamon said he wants to start his own community organization.
“I’ve got the knowledge, I’ve got the experience, I’ve got the education," he said, "so that’s what I’m about ready to do.”
He certainly has an audience behind him now.
In the days after Lamon’s face showed up in protest photographs, people asked for his phone number and wanted pictures taken with him. Others asked him to talk some sense into their troubled children, inspire them to do some good.
“I’m not all about the fame,” Lamon said. “But it is what it is.”
On Wednesday morning, more than a week after the city released the dash-cam video of McDonald's death, Lamon accompanied his cousin to enroll her kid at a preschool in Chatham.
Before long, local folks recognized his face from the TV, asking, "Are you that boy?"
“Staring down the police?” Lamon asked one woman who thought he looked familiar. “Yeah, that was me — all over the news.”
Lamon thanked the woman and laughed.
At the end of the day, he’s a South Side teenager with big dreams.
Lamon said he sees politics in his future: Maybe he'll run for mayor so he can inspire kids who have to grow up in a world without heroes — just like he did.
“I never had that one person,” Lamon said. “I never had that experience. Nobody’s my hero. Nobody’s my role model. I’m trying to create my own image of a role model.”
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