“I know that they were there to take her and hold her to have someone bring them drugs, the drugs they were after. They weren’t actually after her drugs. I’m relieved on that.”
Black recounts the incident with calmness and clarity. She said she gained a better understanding of what exactly happened during testimony last week. She often thinks that it could have very well been her in the house — not Johnson. “I wish I were there. I would have taken every one of those for her,” she said.
In an hour-long interview with City Pulse Monday afternoon, Black not only recounted the night of Johnson’s shooting, but also Johnson’s relationships and dreams of the future; how the family is coping with the loss of her daughter; and her thoughts on the accused. Johnson’s ashes sat in an urn on the dining table.
“Shayla is an awesome person — I still talk about her like she’s still here,” Black said. “She’s the type of person that you love her or hate her, and even if you hate her, you still like her a little bit just because she’s sassy. She was a person who spoke her mind.”
One of Black’s favorite memories of Johnson is on the day she died. “She sat with me for about an hour and told me how much she loved me, how beautiful I was and what a great person I was. That’s a memory I’m always going to be thankful for.”
Johnson graduated from Holt High School in 2008. Black said about 500 people attended her funeral. At the time of her death, Johnson was working for Great Lakes Specialty Finance, or a “check and go,” for about six to eight months, Black said.
Black said she attempted to have dinner with her two children every night of the week and every Wednesday night was “date night,” which involved dinner at World Buffet for all-you-can-eat crab legs.
“That was kind of our big thing,” Black said. “I always wanted to spend time with her. She was just fun. I thought of her as my best friend.”
Johnson was planning to move to Texas where her best friend from high school lives, Black said. “That was her plan. A week before that could happen she was killed. She was all set to go,” Black said. “Her initial plan was to get out of Lansing, move to Texas and get a change in life.”
On the night of the shooting, Black said she, her now 18-year-old son Anthony Johnson and his girlfriend were at the westside home where this interview took place packing for a weekend trip to Michigan’s Adventure amusement park near Muskegon. Black said she asked Johnson if she wanted to come help, but Johnson declined, saying: “No, Mom, I’m tired. I just want to sleep,” Black said.
Black was living at the Lenore Avenue home where the shooting took place, but spent time going back and forth between the westside home, where her boyfriend, Brainard Davis, lives.
“I immediately moved here,” after the shooting, she said. Black’s teenage son and his girlfriend, Kali Pahl, along with Black and Johnson, were living at the Lenore Avenue home at the time of the shooting.
Now, Black is living in west Lansing with her grandson Brayden Johnson, Davis and two dogs named Daisy and Baby. She’s considering a second anniversary party for Johnson, but something more modestly sized than last year’s. She fears her son is still having difficulty coping with the incident. Black credits her own spirituality for guiding her through the past year and a half. She has no immediate plans for leaving the city, though she hasn’t ruled it out, either.
“I’m actually doing great. I’m not going to say I don’t have my moments where I break down and cry. I miss my daughter immensely,” she said. “I just try to keep her spirit and memory alive and I feel like that’s my job now. I can’t sit around and cry and mope about it. I won’t be able to get anything done, I won’t be any good to anybody.”
It was her own fault, she admits, for reading the comments section of the State Journal’s website that she says mischaracterize her and her family. Black said she doesn’t want Johnson to “be that girl that was murdered in 2010. I want people to know that we’re a family that love her and miss her.”
That will take some work, she said, which will likely involve the media. As she places her hands on the court documents and news clippings toward the end of our interview, Black said: “We’re a long way from this being a finished project.”