By Sadef Ali Kully
Dozens of friends, families and supporters joined the annual missing persons Walk of Hope last weekend to commemorate missing children and adults across the nation in an event that started from Rufus King Park in downtown Jamaica.
Dr. Arnita Fowler, whose son disappeared 20 years ago and was found four years later buried in Potter’s Field, has been organizing these annual walks through her son’s namesake nonprofit organization, the LaMont Dottin Foundation.
“It’s been 20 years since he went missing,” said Fowler, the organization’s founder.
Dottin was 19 years old when he disappeared from his St. Albans home on Oct. 16, 1995. Six days later his body was found floating in the East Hudson River and was subsequently buried in a pauper’s grave in Potters Field on Hart Island.
In 1999, Fowler discovered her son had been identified by the FBI through dental records, which was never reported to NYPD’s Missing Person Unit. He was buried in Potter’s Field without Fowler’s knowledge.
She called police for her weekly follow-up when the mistake was revealed.
It took Fowler over a year to have her son’s body exhumed from Hart Island and brought home for a proper funeral and burial.
A year later, the family established The LaMont Dottin Foundation to assist other families and push legislation.
The LaMont Dottin’s Law was sponored by state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Rochdale Village) and state Assemblyman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn). It passed the Legislature unanimously in June for the first time since the bill had been proposed in 2002.
“The governor is missing an opportunity. As a Marine Corps we pride ourselves in not leaving people behind on the battlefield,” Sanders said.
LaMont Dottin’s Law is now awaiting the governor’s signature to become law.
It would mandate that police agencies file an electronic report with the National Crime Information Center within 24 hours of being notified that a person between the ages of 21 and 64 had disappeared.
The current law states an individual has to be classified as a child or vulnerable senior for national and statewide alerts to be sent out.
Before the walk began, volunteers, including Fowler, solicited signatures to support legislation and commemorated the missing with songs of worship and hope.
The Walk of Hope wound from Rufus King Park through Jamaica Avenue to Blanche Memorial Baptist Church at Sutphin Boulevard in South Jamaica.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull