Friday, September 08, 2000

Final farewells to Office Kevin Crayon, Courtney Mathis

City mourns two bound in tragedy

By Jane Prendergast and Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        One was a man, the other just 12 years old.

        One wore a police uniform and died in it. The other had barely started seventh grade.

        One lived almost 41 years, long enough to have three children and two careers. The other's life lay ahead.

[photo] An honor guard of Cincinnati police officers carries the casket of Officer Kevin Crayon from the Lincoln Heights Missionary Baptist Church.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
        Two different people, Officer Kevin Curtis Crayon and Courtney Demond Mathis, brought together tragically by the extraordinary incident a week ago this morning that killed both. The boy got behind the wheel of a relative's car and dragged the officer down Colerain Avenue in Mount Airy. The officer shot the boy in the chest, then fell off the car to his death.

        Two deaths that always will be inextricably intertwined.

        Two funerals, at the same time, on the same sunny Thursday afternoon in the same city. And with the same attitude — both were celebrations, “home-goings.”

        One funeral was held in a small Baptist church in Evanston, the other across town in Woodlawn, at one of the area's largest Baptist congregations. Choir voices boomed and ministers praised God for bringing Courtney and Officer Crayon home to Paradise, to life everafter.

        No one questioned what happened to them, or why.

        “We don't quite understand what all went on that night,” said Courtney's uncle, Michael McCray. “We leave it in God's hands.”


        Not everyone could squeeze inside the Lincoln Heights Missionary Baptist Church for Officer Crayon's service. Hallways and balconies filled quickly, mostly with police officers wearing pressed dress uniforms. The crowd eventually topped 1,000.

        Some officers, like Darryl Barney of the District of Columbia Police Department, came from far away. Distance means nothing when a family member dies, he said.

        And cops are family.

        Just before the casket was closed and the service started, Police Chief Thomas Streicher had one last moment with his dead officer. He touched Officer Crayon's uniform with his white-gloved hand and whispered, “Go with Godspeed. I love you.”

        Officer Crayon's oldest son, Kevin II, rose in the front row to address the crowd on behalf of his brother Christopher, and his sister, Brittany. Together, they wrote a poem about their father.

        “There will be moments when I want to see his qualities,” the poised 19-year-old read in a strong voice, gripping a microphone. “That is when I'll look into the mirror and see a part of him staring back at me.”


        Across town at tiny New Christian Life Baptist Church, sunlight streamed through the front windows.

Courtney Demond Mathis
Dec. 14, 1987 - Sept. 1, 2000

    He was born in Cincinnati, the son of Donna M. Williams Carnegie and Charles Mathis. He recently completed the sixth grade at North Fairmount School, and had started this school year as a seventh grader at Jacob Center.
    Family and friends say the one thing they will remember about the 12-year-old was his smile. He loved playing team sports, particularly football and basketball. Shy and respectful, Courtney was well-liked by classmates and friends. He had recently joined New Christian Life Baptist Church in Evanston with his family.
    Besides his parents, other survivors include his stepfather, Robert E. Carnegie; three brothers, Reginald D. Dozier, Chris and Carlos Mathis; five sisters, Lacey, Tracey, April, Precious and Rayshonda Mathis; grandparents, Willie and Earlene Watts, Phyllis Dozier, Doris Moore and Virginia Wright; and many aunts, uncles and other relatives.

        Courtney's service began with preacher Flave Hunter loudly reciting the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ...” as he led the family toward the powder blue casket at the front of the church.

        The Rev. Mr. Hunter took his place at the pulpit with no prepared remarks. The spirit would move him, he said, just as he knew it would for the whole congregation.

        Men and women dressed in suits and hats. Some carried worn Bibles. They shouted, “Praise God!” and “Have mercy!” as the Rev. Mr. Hunter spoke of heaven, Courtney's new home.

        As the preacher's eulogy heated up inside the cramped church, mourners reached for fans and mopped their brows.

        Some women wept uncontrollably and relied on ushers dressed in starched white uniforms and nurses' hats to provide water and fans.


        The Rev. Freddie T. Piphus Jr.'s eulogy for Officer Crayon talked of building dreams and being ready when that call home comes from God. He thanked God that the officer was ready.

Kevin Curtis Crayon
Sept. 29, 1959 - Sept. 1, 2000

    Officer Kevin Crayon was born in Cincinnati, the son of Barbara Crayon Albright and the late Abraham Crayon. He graduated from Forest Park High School in 1977, then enlisted in the Army. Later, he attended Cochise College in Sierra Vista, Ariz., and Central Texas College in Killeen, Texas, where he studied computer maintenance.
    He had been a Cincinnati police officer for just more than four years. He enjoyed motorcycles, body-building, fishing and sports. He was an active member of Lincoln Heights Missionary Baptist Church.
    Besides his mother, survivors include two sons, Kevin Curtis Crayon II and Christopher Keith Crayon, both of Atlanta; a daughter, Brittany Denise Crayon of Atlanta; three brothers, Vincent Toran, Shawn Anthony Crayon and Keith Andre Albright; a sister, Vicki Denise Travis; grandparents Carl D. Jones and Josephine Albright, and many aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.

        Cincinnati dignitaries eulogized the fallen officer. Mayor Charlie Luken, City Manager John Shirey, Safety Director Kent Ryan, Chief Streicher. They praised a man who was exactly the kind of cop a city needs. He enforced the law, but he did it with kindness and compassion — the best mix for street work, they said.

        Chief Streicher thanked Officer Crayon for one last act, for using his death to bring together two segments of society that don't always take time to meet — law enforcement and the people they serve.

        He remained convinced Officer Crayon was acting as a concerned parent, “trying to rescue a child from making a very serious mistake.”

        The mayor told about how he sometimes gets saluted by the officers who work in the city he helps run. This time, Mr. Luken saluted every officer in the crowd. Cincinnati must remember, he said, “that you put it on the line for us each and every day.”

        He told the officer's family that the city's help for them would not end.

        “Your father died in our service,” he said. “We will forever be in yours.”


        At Courtney's funeral, a dozen people told stories about the boy's life.

[photo] Courtney Mathis' aunt, Tammar Israel-Griffin (left) and grandmother, Phyllis Dozier, spoke at a press conference Thursday.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        Bridgette Sears, Courtney's teacher for fifth and sixth grades at North Fairmount School, said the boy touched her life. Early in the school year, Ms. Sears was having a bumpy time connecting with her students. Courtney stood up one day and convinced the class that it would be better to keep Ms. Sears instead of having a different substitute teacher every day.

        “This is my precious gift from God,” she said. “Just as he was to you all.”

        A woman then sang of lifting her eyes to the hills for help from the Lord. Her voice was soft and mellow at first, then strong and bellowing as other members of the choir joined in.

        “The sun shall not smite thee by day,” she sang. “Nor the moon by night. He shall preserve thy soul.”

        After two hours, the boy's family solemnly left for the cemetery, where the line of mourners' cars — nearly two dozen of them — stretched almost from grave to gate.

[photo] A boy carries a poster with photos of Courtney from New Christian Life Baptist Church after the funeral.
(Tony Jones photo)
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        Officer Crayon's body arrived at Oak Hill Cemetery in Springdale behind a 2 1/2-mile procession of 600 police cruisers and 150 motorcycles. With their red and blue lights flashing, the cars passed hundreds of well-wishers along the route.

        The bystanders were black and white, young and old, students and retirees. They were homemakers, network engineers, insurance agents, home builders, school crossing guards and wives of police officers. Some took the day off, others cut their work days short to pay their respects.

        As a modest thank you, police officers and firefighters were given free food all day Thursday at the McDonald's at Springfield Pike and Glendale-Milford Road. Assistant Manager Michael Pruitt took a break from his work to watch.

        “I just wanted to be a part of it in any way I could,” he said.

        Lincoln Heights friends Nancy White and Evelyn Thomas saluted as the gold hearse drove by them.


        The boy's grave site in Westwood's Baltimore Pike Cemetery was quieter than Officer Crayon's. The Rev. Mr. Hunter read from The Book of Common Prayer: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Family members took white roses off the casket.

[photo] Courtney Mathis' coffin is carried from the church.
(Tony Jones photo)
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        The mourners did not linger. The gold hearse that carried Courtney drove away, moving slowly down the winding lane.

        The young boy's powder blue and silver casket shimmered alone under an even bluer sky in Section 17.

        “He has always been a loving, kind person,” said Courtney's uncle, Mr. McCray. “He was loved by his family and friends.”


        About the same time, most of the 1,000 who mourned for Officer Crayon reassembled graveside. Under pine trees and flanked by a color guard and bagpipe corps, they gathered to hear final remarks from the Rev. Mr. Piphus and Chief Streicher.

        Three helicopters flew over. With officers standing at attention, a group of bagpipers played “Amazing Grace.” A single bagpiper finished the song alone as he filed past the flag-draped casket.

        Marksmen fired seven guns three times — a 21-gun salute. An officer led a police horse, its back covered in black, past the grave site. It held no rider.

        Pallbearers carefully folded the stars and stripes into a triangle and handed the flag to Officer Crayon's mother, Barbara Crayon Albright. She held it to her breast.

        A police division dispatcher then issued a final call for the officer: “Attention all cars, all departments. All-county broadcast. Final call for Cincinnati Police Officer Kevin Crayon, Badge No. P347. May he rest in peace.”

        Chief Streicher then stood and repeated the words he had whispered four hours earlier to the dead officer.

        “Go with Godspeed.”

       Earnest Winston contributed to this report.

Complete coverage at
Photo gallery of funeral
Express condolences to Crayon family.

- Final farewells to Office Kevin Crayon, Courtney Mathis
Excerpts from Officer Kevin Crayon's funeral

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