East Germany’s First Black Police Officer, Sam Meffire, Shares Message to Teen Involved in Proctor Shooting
The 16-year-old boy, who was arrested for the shooting at the Proctor High School football game, received a compassionate message from Germany.
Sam Njankouo Meffire, who rose to fame in the 90s serving as East Germany's first Black police officer, had some sincere advice to the troubled teenager.
Meffire's true life story is told in the new Hulu series, Sam: A Saxon. The show provides an unflinching look at his tumultuous upbringing, as well as his journey into the limelight and fall from grace.
It is the streamer's first German-language production.
Per the official series synopsis:
Samuel Meffire, the first black policeman in East Germany. This is a gripping series that follows Sam's irrepressible search for his place in an intensely prejudiced society. In his fight to overcome the system, he becomes the face of an anti-racism campaign and a symbol of a new Germany. However, his meteoric rise to fame is quickly followed by an abrupt downfall as he ends up behind bars with German tabloids branding him "public enemy #1".
Meffire is now touring the world to share his experiences and raise awareness about the dangers of hate. He is about to embark on a U.S. Educational Tour that will take him to North Carolina, Illinois, and New York.
Ahead of his September 22 visit to the Columbia University School of Journalism, Meffire turned his attention to Utica.
"Attraction to the dark path"
Meffire had sympathy for the 16-year-old Utica teen, who fired into a crowd of people that were brawling on the school parking lot after the weekend game. A school security officer, identified as Jeff Lynch, sustained a bullet wound to the back of his head as he was trying to break up the fight.
Meffire is thankful Lynch is recovering, but he was also troubled to hear that someone so young was accused of such violence. The former police officer spoke with WIBX about the incident and shared this message not only to the alleged shooter, but to kids who are turning to violence.
In my younger days, I was filled up with rage and anger. And I truly feel this attraction to the dark path.
English is not Meffire's first language, so he switched to speaking in his native German. Sam: A Saxon co-creator and head writer, Jörg Winger, translated the rest of his message.
Winger explained that Meffire's experience with feeling rage and giving into violence is why they hope the 16-year-old alleged shooter heeds this advice.
The the message that he would want to convey is that you just have to respect certain red lines and you can't let your anger take over [and] take you over those red lines. This is what he himself learned the hard way... Sam himself has a lot of regrets about decisions he took as a young man, because not only it's been traumatizing for himself, but mostly he has hurt people and their families, who have felt the effect of his actions to this day. That's something [Sam] has to grapple with to this day.
Meffire also expressed hope the teenager can turn his life around, which he thinks can be done through hard work and sincere intent.
"You have to work very hard on yourself with the help of other people, but it's an internal process and it's a long and hard [one], but it can be achieved," Winger translated.
Meffire also noted that those who react violently are the catalyst of a "vicious cycle" where "violence creates more violence and creates more anger." He also insisted there is a way "to get out of that" and change for the better.
As for the series creator, Winger has known Meffire for 20 years and said the former police officer is "a fantastic example for someone who comes back and gives the world a lot from his insights - from the darkness and his own experiences."
Meffire was born in 1970 in the German Democratic Republic. His mother was German and his father, who died the day he was born, was Cameroonian. His father's cause of death remains unknown, but it's been theorized he was murdered by poison.
His childhood was traumatic, as his mother was physically, psychologically, and verbally abusive. Meffire told WIBX that when he was hiding from his mother and those who wanted to hurt him, he would dream of police coming to rescue him.
The role of the police are the ones that come into the darkness and pull you out and save you.
Despite his rough upbringing, Meffire joined the East Germany police force as their first Afro-German officer in the reunified State of Saxony. During that time, he became the face of an aggressive PR campaign against xenophobia and the rising tide of pro-neo-Nazi sentiments.
Giant billboards were erected on walls that bore his face and the words "A Saxon" underneath. The images were also disseminated across the media.
The idea was to project Saxony as a progressive and multicultural community during a time where neo-Nazis were increasingly attacking refugees and migrant workers.
The campaign was as controversial as it was polarizing, and Meffire faced significant backlash because of it. He also was elevated to celebrity status and became the center of public attention.
Sam inevitably gave into the anger stemming from his childhood trauma and quit the police in 1994. He then turned to a life of crime and engaged in a string of armed robberies in 1995, where he was branded "Public Enemy #1" by the German media.
Meffire became a hunted criminal, so he fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Germany. He was ultimately apprehended and extradited back to his home country, where was sentenced to nearly a decade in prison with no probation. Meffire also was placed in solitary confinement, which is where he picked up writing and began working through his inner demons.
Meffire was released seven years into his sentence and has since dedicated his life to helping others as a security contractor, author, and social worker. He's since created outreach efforts to juvenile delinquents and has published his autobiography, I, A Saxon, of which the new Hulu series is based.
The English version of his book was retitled SAM and you can purchase a copy across all major book sellers.
Saluting the police
While Meffire expressed a compassionate message to the 16-year-old alleged shooter, the former policeman holds tremendous respect for law enforcement officers and the sacrifices they make to keep others safe.
Speaking to WIBX, he said he's never lost his childhood "dream" of what being a police officer means and views them as heroes.
The police is the force that goes into places, even though they're human, and they're tired, and they're underpaid, and they believe in the law, and they come and find you, and save you, and set things right.
After the shooting, security officer Jeff Lynch was released from the hospital and will soon be awarded the Abby Zwerner Hero Teacher Award, per Interim Superintendent Kathleen Davis.
A GoFundMe has since been started to help Lynch pay off his medical expenses.
Meffire is coming to New York later this month
The series Sam: A Saxon was met with some controversy in Germany, but the German Federal Government has expressed it wants the show to be added to the national curriculum in schools.
Winger also noted Sam: A Saxon is the first German show to feature a Black hero, which he says is partially responsible for the "powerful response."
Meffire and Winger have since embarked on an education tour within Germany to speak with students and to show the series in schools. That tour is now coming to the United States thanks to the efforts of the Black German Heritage and Research Association (BGHRA), German Embassy Washington, Goethe Institute, and Fremantle-backed Big Window Productions, which is a label of UFA Fiction.
The educational tour is coming to New York, with a stop planned at the Columbia University School of Journalism. The September 22 event is sold out, but tickets are still available for the September 20 Goethe Institut screening in Chicago.