Harlem Johnson

SHREVEPORT, La. – Nikba Edwards sat on her porch on a sunny, late spring morning surrounded by family. 

"Family is important,” Edwards said, flanked by her sister and grown son.

Edwards’ family has leaned on one another for support during a time of unthinkable hardship. The family’s youngest member, Harlem Johnson, was killed. He was only nine months old. 

"I’m angry. I’m hurt," Edwards said. "How could somebody hurt a precious nine-month-old baby?"

Shreveport police responded to a medical emergency the night of May 2 at the Cyprus Landing apartments on Hilry Huckaby III Ave., where they found baby Harlem with serious injuries. He was rushed to the hospital, where he died hours later.

The Caddo Parish Coroner determined in the days following that Harlem's death was a homicide.

"I went to the funeral home and (Harlem) had staples from one side of his head to the other side," said Edwards, who is Harlem's paternal grandmother.

She said Harlem and his two-year-old sister were with their mother, Sharon Johnson, and Johnson’s boyfriend, Jack Lee Harris, the night of the incident.

"The person that was supposed to protect him failed to protect him," Edwards said.

Johnson and Harris were arrested after Harlem died. Both are charged with second-degree cruelty to a juvenile, though that charge is connected to Harlem's older sister, who has two broken legs.

"She’s in (Child Protection Services) custody,” Edwards said. “We’re fighting to get her back right now."

Johnson remains at the Caddo Correctional Center with bail set at $25,000. Harris was released from jail after posting a $10,000 bond.

"I want to seek justice. This is not right,” Edwards said. “I want to know why no one has been charged with my grandchild’s murder."

Edwards said getting answers to that question has been difficult.

"I’ve been calling, only to be told, ‘Well, it’s up to the prosecutor,’” Edwards said. “I called the (District Attorney’s) office. Well, the information -- they haven’t received the package yet."

District Attorney James Stewart confirmed that he still does not have the case file from Shreveport police.

According to Assistant Chief Marcus Mitchell, investigators still waiting on Harlem's medical records and final autopsy report before they move forward and submit the packet to Stewart’s office.

Coroner Todd Thoma said Harlem’s final autopsy report is not yet complete. Until it is, he said he would not comment on an active investigation.

Final autopsy reports can take weeks, or even months, depending on a variety of different factors including DNA or toxicology results.

For Edwards and her family, answers in Harlem’s death can’t come soon enough.

"Because his life matters to us. His life matters to me," Edwards said. "I don’t want him being forgotten. I can’t forget him. I look at his picture every day. I can’t forget him. He’s right here in my heart."

Edwards shared with KTBS a message for Harlem’s mother: "You were supposed to protect my grandson. That was your job, your duty as a mother. I hope that you rot in hell. I hope you rot in jail," Edwards said.


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