Armani Mcphall, age 19, was killed on South Orange Avenue in Newark on December 22, 2016. His father, Elite Heat Boxing Gym owner Anthony Mcphall, reflects on the life of his son, who he called a “game changer” and “a gift.”
I was young when Armani was born.
I remember putting lotion on my baby. I remember when he had colic. I remember taking him to get his shots and registering him for school.
I remember the first time Armani walked.
I wasn’t doing much when I became a father. But I took full custody of Armani at three months old, and he made me work real quick. I stopped all the B.S. I found a job, and a babysitter. I got a new set of friends that I’d be okay with him being around.
It was a lonely time.
But Armani helped me to become a better father. He was a game-changer. He was a gift to me.
My mother had already raised five children. I didn’t want her to have to raise my son.
The weeks since Armani’s death, I have moved from being an unmanageable mess to a manageable mess. My feelings have been all mixed up like a Rubiks cube. My family has helped out a lot. My brother and my mother have been there. I don’t want to isolate myself.
This gym was supposed to be for him. He was supposed to be the face of this gym. But never like this.
I keep thinking about all the things we did together. My boy was attached to me. It’s like…unreal.
Armani was very important to me. I knew a lot of kids that didn’t have fathers. In my life, my mom was mom and pops. Kids would say they wish they had a pop like me.
We traveled. I took Armani to see other places, so that he would know not everyone lives like they do here. We went to Montego Bay, and Armani invented the “Spongebob” – [a drink] made from Sprite and lemonade. Soon, all the kids were drinking them. I told him, “Your first passport has a lot of stamps in it – that means something you know.”
Armani got along with a lot of people. On his 15th birthday, I asked him what he wanted. He said, “Dad it’s not about me,” so he took his birthday money and we bought food and drinks and the necessary day-to-day needs like shaving razors, soaps, travel toothpaste, toothbrushes, wash rags, deodorants and packed them in small Ziplocs and went down to Penn [Station].
Later that day, Armani was talking to one guy a lot at the station named Terrance. Armani and Terrance exchanged cell numbers. He told Armani his birthday was in June. Armani bought a ticket from [professional boxer] John Thompson’s–Apollo Kidd’s–father for a fight Apollo was in at the Prudential Center for Terrance’s birthday. The day before the fight, he had me take him and Terrance to a store in Irvington Center to buy him a cheap outfit, a haircut, and to Foot Locker to buy sneakers. After the fight, we went to Buffalo Wild Wings, then he spent the night at a hotel. The next month, Terrance got an apartment through the state living next to Lincoln Park in Newark. He called Armani and told him “thank you” and [that] he appreciated him.