Suliman Abdul-Mutakallim was killed in a seemingly random attack in 2015. Two years later, his mother Rukiye came face-to-face with one of the people who were responsible at a hearing. And what she did next shocked the entire courtroom.
Abdul-Mutakallim was raised in California. He then obtained his GED in Michigan before joining the Navy in 2001. Rukiye explained to The Cincinnati Enquirer that had he wanted to serve his country “to help him find a direction” in life.
He spent three years in Iraq with the Navy, in which his brother still serves as a lieutenant commander. Abdul-Mutakallim then moved to Ohio and resided with both his mother and sister, a specialist in information technology. He became married in 2010 and lived with his wife in the South Cumminsville area of Cincinnati.
Rukiye is now retired after being employed in banking. She has volunteered with Islamic Relief to provide aid during natural disasters and went to Houston to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. On the day that her son died, he had been at home watching movies with his wife.
Abdul-Mutakallim went to pick up some food from White Castle for himself and his wife on June 28, 2015. And it seems that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. As he left the fast food restaurant, a shot was fired into his head at the back.
According to police, 14-year-old Javon Coulter was involved in the crime along with two men. He was identified by witnesses, and a surveillance video showed him taking money and a cellphone from Abdul-Mutakallim’s pocket as he lay face down on the ground. It is thought that Abdul-Mutakallim had not even had $60 in his wallet, and the teen divided out what he had found to his accomplices.
The victim was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, but he succumbed to his injuries the next day. His family were by his side when he died aged 39. Coulter and Valentino Pettis, who was 17 when the murder took place, were both taken into custody.
Although a third person is believed to have been involved, they were never found. Coulter claimed that this perpetrator was the one behind the shooting, but Pettis alleged that Coulter pulled the trigger. “I heard Tino did it. I heard Javon did it,” Detective Eric Karaguleff said in his testimony. And he continued, “I heard a third person did it. I don’t care – doesn’t matter – they all benefited.”
The two men were charged with aggravated robbery and aggravated murder. Their cases started out at juvenile court, but ultimately they faced trial as adults. They both admitted involuntary manslaughter, and Coulter added robbery to his plea.
After the younger man entered his plea, something extraordinary happened. Rukiye was able to confront the person who may have taken her son’s life away. So she went up to him in the courtroom – and what she did next left onlookers amazed.
On November 2, 2017, Rukiye asked Common Pleas Judge Megan Shanahan if she could approach Coulter. Then she made him the offer of a hug. Courtroom regulars were shocked, because they just didn’t see this action from a victim’s family member to a killer. But the teenager accepted.
Rukiye, who also hugged Coulter’s mom, said that she wanted to help Coulter and Pattis to improve as humans during their time in prison. “His death was already ordained,” she told Coulter. “Maybe the purpose is to save your life.”
The 67-year-old explained, “Those young men – although they took my son’s life in the manner they did – we need to fight for them. Because they are going to come back out. And they will be older.”
Rukiye added, “But if they have no light, then this same disease is going to repeat itself, and they are going to take another person’s child’s life and eventually their own. And every mother’s heart must feel this. We have to fight for them to see that there is a better life, and then they have to fight to get to where that better life is.”
Rukiye believes that violence is a disease that afflicted the teenagers. As well as offering forgiveness for their crime, she wants to visit them in prison to help them turn their lives around. However, Pattis was unwilling to accept an embrace from the grieving mother, and she believes he will not be as receptive to her assistance.
Coulter’s mother, Malyyka Bonner, stated that she supported her son being punished. “A wrong’s been done,” she said. But she admitted that he had become closed off when it came to speaking about what he had done. “I don’t think he can fully grasp… the whole reality of what really happened,” Bonner added to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The single mom, now 33, was 15 when she fell pregnant with Coulter. And when he was four years old, his father Kevin Berry, then 24, was shot and killed. The belief is that that murder had something to do with drugs.
Coulter had had to receive special education at school, and his mother stated that he had suffered from psychosis and was on medication for schizophrenia. She also declared that he had had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression. And the mom told the newspaper that he had spent time in psychiatric care. However, he was considered mentally fit to stand trial.
Rukiye was in favor of a plea deal for Coulter, who will spend 20 years behind bars with credit for time already served. Meanwhile, Pattis was sentenced to 14 years of jail time. And Rukiye states that she feels Coulter and Pattis “weren’t given a fair chance at life.”
The 67-year-old now hopes to help the convicts obtain an education and “try to find a solution that will put a light in these young men’s lives for their future.” She added, “Get them to see that there is a better side of life than what they have been seeing up until now. To learn how to say no to that which you already know is wrong.”