Filmmaker and actor Tyler Perry is offering a $100,000 reward for information on the whereabouts of two missing men of color from Naples, Fla.
Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos are considered “missing and endangered,” according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, after last being spotted with now-fired sheriff’s deputy Steve Calkins, almost a decade ago.
Perry is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the discovery of the present whereabouts of either man, for a total of $50,000. Additionally, he is offering a $25,000 reward for information which, following an arrest, leads to a final conviction or plea of guilty or no contest for causing or facilitating the death of Williams or Santos, also totaling $50,000.
The movie mogul made the announcement earlier this month at a press conference in Naples, where he was joined by families of the missing men, the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network and Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP.
“This is injustice,” Perry said, according to the Atlanta Daily World. He added, “I don’t think this is about race or social status as much as it is about, no matter who we are, we should be outraged that this is happening in America in 2013.”
According to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, which is part of a multi-agency probe into the disappearances, Perry has maintained a “sincere interest” in the cases, and has brought his star-power to bear in finding answers.
“We need the right piece of new information,” Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said in a statement. “We are hopeful that Tyler Perry’s involvement will not only keep Terrance and Felipe in the public eye, but also prompt someone to step forward with the information we need.”
“We are asking anyone who may have information to please contact us,” he added. “Every tip, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, is important.”
Santos disappeared on Oct. 14, 2003 after he was arrested by Calkin at the intersection of Airport-Pulling and Immokalee roads for driving without a license. According to an ABC News story, Calkin claimed he did not take the then-23-year-old Mexican laborer to jail, but dropped him off at a nearby Circle K convenience store.
The following January, Williams, an African-American man who was then 27, also disappeared after an encounter with the deputy. Eyewitnesses said Williams was having trouble with his 1984 white Cadillac in the area of 111th Avenue North and Vanderbilt Drive when Calkin drove up. The deputy said he dropped Williams off at the Circle K and didn’t see him again.
The 17-year veteran was fired in August 2004 after giving several “lies and inconsistencies” in his accounts during an internal investigation, according to The Naples Daily News.
The Black and Missing Foundation praised Perry, Sharpton and Jealous for their efforts in bringing attention to the disparity in the percentage of the nation’s missing who are people of color, and the scant media coverage usually given to those persons.
According to the FBI, of the 678,860 persons in the United States who were reported missing in 2011, about 40 percent, or 270,680 individuals, were people of color.
“Unfortunately, the disappearance of Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos are all too common in our communities,” BAM co-founder Natalie Wilson said in a statement. “But with scant media attention yet plenty of stereotypes and other presumptions, this sector of the missing population has largely gone under the radar.”
The families of the missing men have also expressed their thanks to Perry for his generosity and advocacy.
“After years of painful struggle concerning my son’s disappearance I still refuse to accept anything other than finding a resolution to this nightmare,” said Marcia Williams, mother of Terrance Williams. “I will forever be grateful for what Mr. Tyler Perry has done for me and my missing child. He puts the truth into the saying, ‘pay it forward.’ ”