HEMPSTEAD, NY — Omar St. Hill was struggling emotionally during the initial COVID-19 lockdown in New York, but the father of two from Hempstead was trying to rally by talking to friends and family about upcoming plans.
In the very early hours of May 7, 2020, his good friend, Omar Sampson, recalls receiving a phone call from St. Hill. Sampson is based in North Carolina.
“He was trying to get a logo for some clothing he was thinking about selling,” Sampson told PIX11 News. “He started getting a little frazzled, because you can’t go here, you can’t do this, you can’t do that.”
Shortly after 10 p.m. that night, Omar St. Hill left his cell phone and ID at his family’s home in Hempstead and walked out the door on West Marshall Place, up the block toward the Public Storage warehouse and a 7/11. He hasn’t been seen since.
“He went missing during the heart of COVID,” his sister, Kisha St. Hill, said. “So my concern was what was going on in New York, with people getting sick and they were mishandling bodies.”
Kisha St. Hill drove four hours from her current home in Maryland to meet PIX11 News outside the family house in Hempstead.
She told us her father filed a missing persons report with the police department two days after Omar St. Hill’s disappearance, but detectives haven’t found a trace of her brother.
“They know he’s not in a funeral home as a ‘John Doe,'” she said. “They know he’s not in a correctional facility, he’s not in a morgue,” the sister added. “And he’s not in a mental health facility.”
She believes her brother battled sadness for more than 10 years, after he found their younger brother, Sidney, dead of natural causes at home, when Sidney was just in his mid-20’s.
“When you lose your best friend, your brother and best friend, how do you cope with that?” Kisha St. Hill asked.
Omar St. Hill has friends in Hempstead who told us he wasn’t a man who caused problems.
“He’s not a troublesome dude,” said Lamin Dawo. “He doesn’t make enemies or nothing like that. In this case, it was just real odd.”
Another friend, Matthew Harris, recalled hanging posters in store windows last year but was disheartened by the lack of media attention in St. Hill’s disappearance.
“We feel like, in our communities, people of color are overlooked a lot,” Harris said.
When PIX11 News did some research on the case, we found St. Hill’s missing poster on the Twitter feed for the Black and Missing Foundation, which is based in Washington, D.C.
On Thursday, we spoke to the organization’s co-founder, Natalie Wilson, who said 40% of all missing persons are people of color who deserve more press coverage.
“We’ve been sounding the alarm for close to 14 years now that people of color are missing at an alarming rate,” Wilson noted.
Wilson talked about Black males getting the least amount of media focus when they go missing.
“Oftentimes, when people of color–particularly Black males–are reporting missing, they are classified or stereotyped as being involved in some kind of criminal activity,” Wilson noted.
She said often, their lives aren’t valued.
“These are missing fathers, missing brothers, they are our sons,” she said.
Omar St. Hill’s friend, Omar Sampson, created a video for social media last year, where friends and family called attention to the missing man’s name by repeating the phrase, “I am Omar St. Hill.”
PIX11 News reached out twice Thursday to the Nassau County Police Missing Persons Squad, trying to speak with the case detective.
Kisha St. Hill said she felt compelled to widen the circle of people who know about her brother’s case, because she’s having a hard time getting answers from police.
“Social media is the wave,” she said. “We have to go outside of our spaces.”
She said the PIX11 News platform offered opportunity.
“If we keep circulating it in our circles, we’re not going to get further than where we are now,” she noted.