‘After The Uprising’ Follows Ferguson Activist’s Search For Answers In Son’s Death
Since the untimely death of her son Danyé Dion Jones in October 2018, Ferguson activist Melissa McKinnies has been on a quest to learn the truth about what happened to the 24-year-old.
McKinnies found Jones hanging from a tree in the family’s backyard, and St. Louis County Police ruled the death a suicide. But McKinnies has long maintained that Jones was not suicidal, and that he may have been murdered.
She tried to share information that she believed supported her theory but said she got nowhere.
“It’s almost as if they weren’t talking to his mother,” she told St. Louis on the Air. “He had a mother, he has a mother, that cares and loves him. And I’m basing my whole life — I’m focused on trying to find out what happened to my son. And I deserve, we deserve, answers, and not just to be shut out.”
McKinnies’ questions are the focus of a new podcast from iHeartRadio, “After the Uprising.” Journalists John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski contacted McKinnies about six weeks after Jones’ death and have since worked closely with the grieving mother as well as other relatives, friends and members of the community to try to learn more.
In promotional materials, the podcast concludes that “almost seven years after the Black Lives Matter movement was launched from this place, something is still terribly wrong” in north St. Louis County.
Police have defended their work in Jones’ death. But Nowosielski said his investigation suggests lead detective Timothy Anderer failed to follow all the leads McKinnies suggested. Among other things, he said, police failed to test the other DNA found on the sheet from which Jones was hanging.
“It appears, based on the reports, that Detective Anderer did only three real things after [Jones’ death] until he filed his report,” Nowosielski said. “One of them was that he had the [bed] sheet swabbed for DNA. … He set up a follow-up in which he sent his supervisor over to Melissa’s house to get more information, which she felt was more of a ‘why are you putting these homicide assertions out in the public’ than it was a real attempt to get information.
“The third thing was he reviewed the medical examiner’s report when it dropped in January of 2019. And the fourth thing was he reviewed the 911 calls, transcribed them, put them into his report and submitted it. That’s what took eight months.”
In conversation with host Sarah Fenske, McKinnies shared how she hopes people will remember her son — and discussed her continued search for answers and change within the U.S. justice system.
“Danyé was a fighter,” McKinnies said. “From day one he was a fighter — he was born prematurely [due to] an umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. … Ever since then he’s just been this go-getter, this protector. And huge heart. That was Danyé.”
She noted that her push for answers about her son’s death is “not an attack on our police officers.”
“This is an attack on the ones that are not being held accountable for their lack of investigating a Black man’s death — a murder,” McKinnies said. “There’s gotta be some accountability, there's gotta be some change. Because like I’ve always said, our lives matter also.”
In addition to tracing the inquiry into Jones’ death, “After the Uprising” delves into McKinnies’ journey as an activist.
“When I first got started, it wasn’t because of just one particular person,” she said. “It was really just because of me being a mother, and just being tired of hearing about our children and our young men and women being slaughtered. And I’ve always thought that it could one day be mine.”
After Jones’ death, McKinnies stepped back significantly from her efforts.
“Mentally, I was forced to,” she explained. “It was because I need to try to heal [and] help my children heal and focus on what happened to Danyé.”
But she never fully left, she added. Since the murder of George Floyd last year, she’s felt a renewed responsibility “to still fight for everyone.”
“I have to still speak out for those that aren’t able to speak for themselves anymore,” McKinnies said.
Three episodes of “After the Uprising” are currently available, with seven more to come in the series. They are released weekly on Tuesdays.
Producer’s note: This conversation will include discussion of sensitive topics such as suicide and aggressive policing. If you or someone you know is in a crisis situation, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Paola Rodriguez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.