The tragic death of Ice Cube’s sister

Although he’s considered one of the Founding Fathers of gangsta rap — his hip hop group N.W.A. rapped about gun violence, gang wars, and violence against police officers — Ice Cube’s family also fell victim to violence. In 1981, Ice Cube’s half-sister Beverly Jean Brown was shot and killed by her husband inside their home just miles away from where legend lived, per the Huffington Post. Ice Cube was only 12 years old at the time. 

“I think about my sister a lot,” he told the outlet. “I think about the turn of events that triggered that situation.”  However, he noted that he doesn’t have much hope for ending gun violence in America. Ice Cube, whose real name is O’Shea Jackson, added, “America is built on the gun. America is in love with the gun. It’s a sick love affair. But it’s just hard to break.” 

While he spent his career rapping about the affects of gun violence, Ice Cube also said that he would never stop his family members from owning a gun. “If my sons wanted to buy a gun — as long as it was legal and they knew how to use it and they didn’t plan on carrying it around all the time — they’re grown,” he said. However, gun violence will always be an unavoidable part of Ice Cube’s family’s history.

Ice Cube's sister's death was supposed to be a murder-suicide

In his book Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap, author Ben Westhoff wrote that Ice Cube’s half-sister Beverly Jean Brown was 22 years old at the time of her death. After a “domestic dispute,” Beverly’s 27-year-old husband Carl Clifford Brown took her hostage and barricaded them both inside their South Central home. While Carl had intended to commit murder-suicide, only Beverly died during the altercation. 

Per the Los Angeles Times’ official report, Westhoff noted that, although the officers who surrounded the home heard muffled shots, they attempted to communicate with Carl via loudspeaker and telephone. However, once the special weapons and tactics team entered the house, they found Carl had been injured and Beverly had been killed. Carl ultimately died by suicide one month later. 

Ice Cube told Westhoff that Carl was a “wannabe cop” who fell into a deep depression when he “started out for the [Los Angeles Police Department] and didn’t make it.” Had there been better access to mental health resources and alternative gun laws in that exact moment, perhaps Beverly and Carl’s fates might have turned out differently. 

Beverly Brown's death could have been prevented

Ice Cube was right when he mentioned how deeply guns have become entrenched in American culture. His sister’s death didn’t happen in a vacuum. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, gun deaths escalated throughout the 1980s and only began its slow decline after the firearm homicide rate peaked in 1993. But that doesn’t mean that guns haven’t continued to kill people people unnecessarily in the interim. 

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were just over 15,000 shootings in 2019 and around 24,000 suicides, including 627 murder-suicides. A study by the Rand Corporation indicated that tighter gun laws could prevent such deaths. Via the Guardian, “an assault weapons bans could prevent 170 mass shootings a year in the U.S.” and background checks could stop 1,100 gun homicides every year. Raising the age limit to buy a gun could also prevent 1,600 homicides and suicides annually. 

Sadly, Ice Cube’s half-sister’s death is just one of many cases in America and, until “common sense” and “gun laws” become one and the same, there will be many more Beverly and Carl Browns making headlines.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, or call the National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).

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