On Friday August 21st, Idrissa Camara was killed in the line of duty while protecting the American public at the Varick Federal Building in New York City. It was a tragic end to a 15 year career as a Protective Service Officer (Guard) working under contract to the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service.
PSO Camara was a Muslim immigrant from the African nation of Côte D’ivoire. In America he found employment as a security officer, worked hard, paid taxes, was loved by his family and valued by his community. He raised four children and supported his mother who remained in Africa by sending money home to her. He was 53 years old when he was ambushed and killed while working in the lobby of a federal building in New York City by a disgruntled failed former federal employee.
His death passed largely unmarked by either outrage or accolades. Sadly, what mainstream media coverage there was of the incident largely reflected revolting claims by various figures that denigrated Camara’s sacrifice and gave backhanded endorsement to his murderers twisted motives. Multiple accounts of the event labeled his murderer a whistle-blower despite the fact he was a federal employee for less than one year, was fired during his probationary period, and had his demands to be rehired rejected by the Merit Systems Protection Board.
Perhaps there’s some consolation that little furor arose following the heinous crime. I’m given frequent cause to reflect on such matters in these troubled times and it seems increasingly that the clamor that follows a tragic death has little to do with the deceased and more to do with politics.
I suspect somehow that if PSO Camara’s life had been more desperate his death would have been an attractive rallying call to those who seek to view society as a bully and all those who fail in life as victims. I suspect somehow that if the uniform he wore had been embroidered with the word “police” instead of the word “security” that those who make grand displays of patriotic fervor by memorializing line of duty deaths would have rallied to his cause.
A man like Idrissa Camara is the very example of the values many claim to admire. He risked much to travel to a far distant land, overcame hardship to adapt to new culture, worked diligently to provide for his family, and ultimately gave his life in defense of his new homeland.
But those who claim to admire the enterprising spirit of the immigrant, the outsider and the underdog have shown little interest in his death. And those who claim to admire the armed guardians of society have shown little interest in his death. It seems he had too much of something to be attractive to the one crowd and not quite enough of something to be attractive to the other.
There is a silver lining. Left to be mourned by his family, friends and coworkers Issidra Camara can remain in death what he was in life, an everyday hero, quietly contributing to his family and community without fanfare and political spectacle. Rest easy PSO Camara, we’ve got your watch now.
Gabriel Russell is a Regional Director with the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service, a Command Sergeant Major in the Army National Guard, Founder and Managing Partner at Takouba Security, and a volunteer at Code 4 Northwest. He has a Master of Science Degree from Central Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts from the Evergreen State College.