LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Hamza “Travis” Nagdy was upbeat as he stood in front of a group of protesters at the First Unitarian Church in Old Louisville.
It was late September, and a judge had just announced that the three Louisville police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor would not be charged for her death.
Hope, for many gathered, felt out of reach. But Nagdy clung to it. And looking around the crowd, he started to speak.
“I told them two months before the movement, I was the closest to my suicide,” the 21-year-old told the Courier Journal in October. “And I just could have not been here, right now, I just could have not been here.
“I went out to protest, just observing, watching, using a megaphone whenever I could. … There were so many beautiful interactions that happened that it made me realize that what was going on here was building something different, and it gave me a reason to live. “
On Monday, Nagdy’s life was cut short. He was gunned down shortly before 12:30 p.m. in the 2100 block of Crittenden Drive, become the latest victim of a record year of gun violence in Louisville which disproportionately affected young black men.
Her death is a devastating loss for protesters who have spent the past six months demanding justice for Taylor, an unarmed black woman who was fatally shot in her apartment during a botched narcotics investigation on March 13.
As of Monday evening, few details of Nagdy’s death had been released. But Louisville Metro Police spokesman Matt Sanders said the Crittenden shooting victim was taken to the University of Louisville hospital, where he later died from his illnesses. injuries.
The LMPD Homicide Unit is investigating and no suspects have been identified.
Nagdy’s death marks 145 criminal homicides the department responded to this year, breaking the city’s record of 117 homicides in 2016. There were also 541 non-fatal shootings on Sunday.
The shooting is separate from a Sunday night incident in the Portland neighborhood, where a LMPD officer killed Brian Allen Thurman, 49, during a traffic stop.
In Monday’s interviews, friends remembered Nagdy as an inspiring and energetic presence who was committed to changing racist systems.
And while hope seems distant again, some are now clinging to it on Nagdy’s behalf.
“I hope he is a symbol of this violence and that we finally say, ‘It stops with Travis,'” said Antonio T-Made Taylor, a freelance journalist who has mentored Nagdy.
“We’re finally going to be paying some attention to this thing, and we’re going to wrap up a movement around this, and we’re going to be serious about what’s going on in our city.”
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In separate Facebook posts, Nagdy’s mother and mother-in-law both confirmed that he was killed. And her sister, Sarah Nagdy, started a GoFundMe for Nagdy’s funeral expenses, which had raised over $ 20,000 Monday night.
Monday afternoon in March drew dozens to the spot where Nagdy was killed, a residential street in the St. Joseph neighborhood of Louisville.
At a makeshift memorial, they knelt to support Nagdy’s mother, Christina Muimneach, while a protester sang:
“Problems on my way, I have to cry sometimes /
I stayed awake at night, but it’s okay /
I know Jesus will fix it after a while. “
Born and raised in Louisville, Nagdy moved to Breckenridge County with his mother when he was 14. in prison for theft.
He had been out of prison for more than two years when he began to take a leadership role in the Louisville racial justice movement, a position that made him proud. One Tuesday in October, he boasted, he was able to have lunch with State Representative Attica Scott before leading a march that evening.
“I’m a former foster child, I’m a criminal and I don’t have my GED,” he said. “I spent three or four years, not consecutively, incarcerated. And next week I’m flying to New York with Until Freedom. I’m having lunch with a state official. I’ve got people asking me. to lead marches.
Nagdy’s big hair and megaphone were hallmarks of the steps, and he earned the nickname “Chants the Rapper” for continuing to shout songs, even as his voice grew hoarse.
One of his favorite lines: “Today is not my day to die”.
Friends and family repeated this line as they walked in Nagdy’s honor on Monday afternoon. On Eastern Parkway, the group took a break while Muimneach watched a video of his son leading the song.
“I just can’t believe this has happened,” Muimneach said, choking back tears. “Thank you for doing this in his honor, and I know he has to look and smile.”
“Thanks for Travis,” someone answered in the crowd.
Chaunda Lee, a staple of the protests, spent Monday morning in Jefferson Square Park, which has long been the center of the movement. Through tears, she shared memories of Nagdy.
“I remember every time I saw Travis – everyone knows he had all his hair – every time he looked at me he would run off with his arms up to the sky, and he would just wrap his arms around. of me all the time and hugging me every day, ”she said over the phone.
He was energetic and upbeat, and he had run from the middle of a march to the front, leading chants the entire way. He had said he felt more connected to the community in the past few months than he had ever been in his life, and that he planned to create an organization that was spurred on by the protests.
“It’s a huge loss,” Lee said. “He had plans, he had goals, he had some tough times and he worked through them; he was strong.
At 6 p.m. Monday, at least 200 people gathered in Jefferson Square Park for a vigil, including several out-of-state visitors who traveled to Louisville to honor Nagdy.
Many in the crowd were holding lighted candles as they shouted Nagdy’s favorite chants again.
“Long live Travis,” someone shouted, then others repeated in response.
Protester Kris Smith called Nagdy a “kind-hearted kid” and said the two had often discussed the idea of silence.
“We said that silence encourages the torturers, never the tormented ones, so when people are silent it basically encourages others to keep doing what they’re doing, because they don’t see anything wrong with it,” Smith said.
“He wasn’t going to shut up.”
Taylor, Nagdy’s mentor, recalled the joy of seeing Nagdy lead a march to the polls for the 2020 presidential election and vote for the first time.
“He’s irreplaceable,” Taylor said. “Travis really believed he could help change systemic racism. He thought he could be a big part of that change.
“If you ever needed to see hope in a young man, you could look at Travis and see him.… He was inspiring, he was insightful, he was encouraging. He was so willing to learn. a beacon of hope. Him and his megaphone. “