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May 8, 2014

Howard Arthur McKee's life ended at age 66 when two black males allegedly broke into his Alabama home and shot him to death.

Capital murder charges have been file against Kamal Potts, 23, and Romel Cunningham, 28.

McKee survived two tours of duty in Vietnam and served his community as a distinguished firefighter.

From our news source we read:

McKee was killed in broad daylight at his West Harlem Avenue home after he confronted the burglars with a machete. "He never caused anybody any problems," Hagler said. "It appears they were just riding around looking for an empty house to break into."

McKee, called "Ham" by his Birmingham Fire and Rescue co-workers, was retired from the department. He worked at Station No. 25, across from Lawson State.

"The thing I remember most about Ham was that he always came to work at least one hour ahead of time,'' said BFRS Battalion Chief C.W. Mardis. "He was very animated, fun-loving and dependable."

"He will be missed,'' Mardis said. "The Birmingham Fire Department extends our deepest sympathy to the family on their loss."

Arrest records for one of the men provide a chilling account of what happened that day that McKeen was slain: Potts, his girlfriend Shamara Sankey and Cunningham went to McKee's home on West Harlem Avenue about 2:45 p.m. to carry out a burglary. They knocked on the door and, when they didn't get an answer, kicked it in and went inside.

Potts started taking the TV from the living room and Cunningham went farther into the home. McKee surprised Potts and Cunningham, who then fled the home with the victim's TV.

McKee grabbed a machete and chased them outside. The suspects got into their vehicle and Cunningham pulled out a chrome .38 - caliber handgun that authorities said he had with him inside the house.

Potts grabbed Cunningham's hand while he was holding the gun, and they fired several shots at McKee from inside the car. One of the rounds struck McKee, and he collapsed.

Potts then picked up the TV off of the ground. The television, police said, had McKee's blood on it. They put it in the car and fled to the Birmingham community of Titusville. McKee was pronounced dead on the scene at 3:08 p.m.

At press conference Friday, Hagler said the FBI was crucial in solving the case. He declined to elaborate, but FBI officials said members of the FBI's North Alabama Safe Streets Task Force received an anonymous tip about the murder. That information, said FBI spokesman Paul Daymond, was shared with Hueytown and ultimately led to the arrests of the suspects. "Their contribution was key to the case,'' Hagler said.

Bill Veitch, chief deputy district attorney in the Bessemer Cutoff, said his office will do everything it can to provide justice for McKee and his family. "Everybody worked hard to capture these people because they're not just a danger to any one person, they're a danger to us all,'' he said. "If they would do that to this man, they wouldn't hesitate to shoot you, or anyone else."

Sankey has not been charged with any crime. The investigation is ongoing.

Court records show Potts is awaiting trial for a 2013 charge of receiving stolen property - a $400 blower and a $400 edger. Cunningham's arrest record is more extensive.

He, too, is awaiting trial on a 2013 charge of receiving stolen property - a $610 laptop. He was convicted in 2012 of obstruction of justice and of carrying a pistol without a license and cocaine possession in 2010. He received a one-year suspended sentence in the drug possession case.

"To break in and kill a man for no more than what amounts to trinkets,'' Hagler said, "these are criminal predators that are a danger to all of society."
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