- Faith & Family
Two men, both leaders in the church and frequent patrons at the Liberty City’s Jumbo Restaurant [NW 7th Avenue and 75th Street], were killed Saturday evening when the driver of a pickup truck crashed into the popular eatery. The driver, Antonio Lawrence, 53, has since been charged with two counts of DUI manslaughter and is being held on $30,000 bond.
Killed at the scene were Rev. Al Jo Hamlin, 61, a minister at St. Barnabas William Church and Wilton Harris, 60.
Initial reports indicate that the driver lost control and slammed into a parked vehicle just as both men were leaving the restaurant. The impact from the crash pushed the parked truck through the restaurant’s front glass window, sending both men running for cover. Hamlin was thrown back into the restaurant while Harris was pinned under the truck. Jumbo’s property manager and longtime community activist Ken Knight, 59, says the 57-year-old business sustained extensive damage. But as has always been the case for Jumbo’s owner, Robert Flam, the real tragedy was losing two friends.
“I witnessed the entire thing and can only describe it as a freak accident,” Knight said. “The driver and his family are grieving, the families of the two men killed are grieving and everyone associated with Jumbo’s is grieving. Some asked us if we were going to close but I knew both men and they would have wanted us to keep doing what we’ve been doing for 57 years — serving the community — even those who don’t have money for a meal.”
Rebuilding and healing will take time
Knight and Flam have already begun to repair the building from the damage but say they have no clue as to how much it will cost. However, Knight says it’s just one more challenge that the landmark business has had to endure in recent years.
“We were not insured for this kind of accident but we’re determined to rebuild because this place is one of the community’s last lifelines,” he said. “Ever since we were hit by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, we have had to constantly pour in money for repairs. And then this community has been hit hard by the recession. We’re like a lot of other businesses in this area that have very limited insurance.”
Knight says that calls of support have already begun pouring in, including those from City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. Both have reportedly said that they will find resources in order to help Flam and Knight rebuild.
“We’ve had a lot of our regular customers and others come by since Saturday night and we want to be here so they can talk about our two brothers who were tragically killed,” Knight said. “There have been a lot of tears and a lot of stories about the numerous times they shared in this place. Rev. Harris was our house pastor and whenever we had a program he would lead us in prayer. He was due to lead a gospel program next Sunday. Now, instead of a gospel festival it’s going to be a memorial service for both men — two men who were men of God and leaders in their church. After that, we want to have rails or barriers constructed on the corner so that it’s safer. We don’t want anything like this to ever happen again.”