In prison, Jameel “Zuki” McGee vowed revenge on the cop who framed him unjustly.
“I made a goal for myself in prison to harm the officer whenever I got out,” Jameel says in an “I am second” video. “I was deeply hurt by everything that happened.”
But three things softened his simmering rage: He found out that he had become a father. Second, the corrupt cop got saved. Third, Jameel started reading his Bible in the cell.
Today, Jameel McGee, wrongly convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison, and former corrupt cop Andrew Collins are friends and brothers in Christ thanks to an unusual outpouring of grace and forgiveness.
Years after the fateful false accusation, years after being released from jail before schedule, Jameel happened to see the formerly crooked cop who stole years out of his life. Jameel was with his son and so was Andrew.
Jameel was quick to forgive. Evil was overturned by grace.
Andrew Collins had a rough home life. Growing up in Benton Harbor City, Michigan, he decided to become a cop because a police officer, summoned to his parent’s home, brought peace during one particularly acute domestic dispute. Little Andrew associated heroism with the cop.
“I remember thinking from that point on, that’s what I want to do with the rest of my life,” Andrew says.
He started police work with high ideals. But eventually, his sense of justice crumbled and the old evil upbringing began to exercise a bizarre control over his professional course.
Jameel McGee also grew up in tough circumstances.
“Mom used to kick the crap out of us,” says Jameel, the youngest of six. Dad left the picture early on. “Violence became a part of my nature.”
Their lives became intertwined in February of 2006 when Officer Andrew, on the narcotics beat for four months, acted on a tip and was looking for a crack dealer. The car matched the description, but the suspect did not.
Then Jameel walked out of the grocery store with milk and groceries. Because he nearly matched the description, Andrew moved in.
“Where’s the dope?” he barked at Jameel.
Andrew, who was plain clothes, pulled his badge. Jameel, who had been confused by the confrontation, suddenly realized that something had gone terribly wrong.
“This is for real,” he thought.
Cops are rewarded for arrests and convictions. Andrew decided that Jameel was his suspect and made the arrest. He wrote in his report that he found dope on him. That was a lie. Jameel was charged with possession with intent to distribute. Andrew fudged facts, knowing this would secure a conviction in court. He didn’t really think much about the possibility that he nabbed the wrong guy.
This is what Andrew had come to. The old ideals of heroism has succumbed to the dirty work of busting guys without regard for the means. Sadly, his conscience didn’t bother him.
Andrew’s life had descended into utter corruption, and there was no way out… until he got caught.
“Two years after I met Jameel, I got caught with crack, heroin and marijuana in my office,” Andrew says. “I got caught on a Tuesday. I thought about killing myself on Wednesday.
“I couldn’t see coming back from this.”
Fortunately, his wife was a Christian, and at her urging, Andrew went to see her pastor. He confessed everything.
“I don’t deserve the Jesus’ love,” he told the pastor. “The more I confessed, the more I got ‘me’ back, the little boy who wanted to be a good officer.
Ultimately, Andrew turned himself in to the FBI and confessed everything.
Jameel’s case was overturned.
Jameel was blindsided by the reversal of the wrongful conviction. He had boiled with rage and contemplated revenge.
But after reading the Bible in his cell, he started to hear God.
Let it go, God impressed on his heart. This ain’t even your fight.
Jameel let the grace of God soften and overwhelm his heart.
“I was giving Him everything, all this hurt, all this bitterness,” he says.
After three years served on his 10-year sentence, a counselor suddenly asked him: “If you were to leave today, where would you go?”
“My grandmother’s house,” Jameel replied.
“Well, I need an address,” the counselor responded. “You’re free to go. You have 15 minutes to gather your stuff and leave the premises.”
He handed him a paper from the judge that overturned the conviction and sentence.
Jameel couldn’t believe it. With paper in hand, he stepped outside.
“Thank You, Jesus!” he exclaimed.
“I gave away my pain, my hurt, my frustration,” Jameel says. “And God gave me an exit.”
While Jameel got out of prison, Andrew went into prison. The corrupt cop was sentenced for his crimes and had to pay his due to society.
When Andrew was released, he was taking his son to the park. It was two years after Jameel’s release. He hadn’t thought much about Jameel in the intervening time, but that day at the park he recognized Jameel and his son.
Jameel came over, his hand extended to shake. Jameel introduced his son to Andrew and Andrew’s son.
“Explain to him why I was missing out on all those years of his life,” Jameel told Andrew.
It wasn’t spoken in a threatening, hostile or bitter manner. It was very matter of fact. Though confrontative, the words were spoken with a tone of grace.
Still, those words clattered against Andrew’s heart.
“That was worse than being punched,” Andrew remembers.
He began to apologize profusely.
Jameel hugged him and wouldn’t stop holding him.
“I was waiting on God to give me a clear answer of what I should be doing,” Jameel remembers.
That day in the park, both discovered Jesus had touched them through the injustice.
Four years later, Jameel enrolled in a Jobs for Life program. After three weeks in the program, he got hooked up with a mentor.
It was Andrew Collins.
Jameel had misgivings and wanted to pray about it. Andrew felt like it was second chance to apologize again.
“Man, I’m sorry for everything I did to you,” Andrew gushed again.
“It’s over bro,” Jameel responded.
“I forgive,” Jameel says. “The reason why is because if God didn’t forgive us for our actions, if we were charged for every single thing we’ve done in our lives, where would that leave us? All we’ve got to do is let it go.”
Bryan Gutierrez studied at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.