Raphael Beecham


Age: 59
Shot: Harold (brother) Age 35

Case summary: When his girlfriend ran to his door, Harold opened it to let her in, and was shot by the man who was running after her. Case status: Solved, but police would not give Raphael the gunman’s name.

Nearly two decades ago, Raphael’s oldest brother, Harold, was shot while standing in the doorway of his home in Roseland. Harold was 35 years old. Raphael still feels the pain of the loss. “It was a very gruesome shooting,” he says.

Harold’s girlfriend ran down the street and pounded on the door, apparently as she was pursued by a man with a gun. She watched in horror as the man shot Harold. The gunman was eventually arrested, convicted and incarcerated. But police advised Raphael not to attend the trial or sentencing, and he says he does not know the gunman’s name. He suspects that his brother’s girlfriend knows more than she told him.

“Whenever she talks to me, she cries and cries,” Raphael says. “I tell her, ‘there’s a reason you cry so much’ but she won’t tell me what it is.”

The girlfriend has since moved away. Raphael still misses his brother. They were close. And when they were young, they were both in a gang. Back then, though, fights were settled with fists, not guns, he says.

Raphael has done time in prison, at the maximum security Pontiac Correctional Center in Pontiac, IL. He was there, serving a five-year sentence for robbery, in 1978 when the deadliest prison riot in Illinois history broke out. The experience made him sure he never wanted to end up back in prison. When he got out, “I just had to find my own way,” he says.  He ended up in the soup line at Roseland. “When the Lord delivered me, it was because I done tried everything else, I decided I had better try God.”

When God delivers you from one thing, he gets you ready for something else.

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He’s been a part of Roseland Christian Ministries ever since. He served as a deacon, and then an elder. He’s been married for 17 years to his wife Donnie. “She sings on the praise team” at Roseland, he notes proudly.

As an elder, he visits members of the congregation who are sick or need prayer. He also counsels the young men at Roseland. “I tell them, you don’t want to be in a gang, because there’s certain things you have to do,” including shooting people. “Life’s not for you to take,” he tells them. He also warns them about the horrors of prison. “You don’t want that,” he tells them. 

He says he would not leave Roseland, where he has lived since he was about 18. “I don’t think God’s through with me yet,” he says. “When God delivers you from one thing, he gets you ready for something else.”

Raphael loves to study theology, and spends a lot of time reading authors like R.C. Sproul, Jim Osterhouse, and others. “It’s just a blessing,” he says. “God has continued to work with me, deal with me, to help someone else out. But just because you’re helping someone, doesn’t mean you’re above being helped yourself.”