Last heroic act shows ‘you can’t brand someone for his past’

A homeless man with a troubled past died a heroic death recently. His story has his Seattle family noting that it’s never too late in any life to do the right thing.

It would have been easy to judge, and then probably dismiss, James Farmer Jr. back when he was alive.

Plenty of people did. For decades after going to Garfield High School in Seattle’s Central Area in the early 1970s, Farmer was trouble coming down the block — getting into fights, revolving in and out of jail, living for times at homeless shelters.

“Jimmy was a bit of a street person,” his sister Elaine Farmer, 64, recalled the other day. “He loved running the streets. He didn’t like to pay rent. He loved to gamble.”

By the time he died last month, killed outside a homeless shelter in Denver, the 62-year-old’s rap sheet included seven convictions, mostly for misdemeanors but two for felony assaults.

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So when Seattle police came to Elaine’s door and said to call the cops down in Denver ASAP, she admits she instinctively doubted her brother.

“I thought ‘oh no, Jimmy’s done something again,’” she says.

Did he ever.

In Denver, where Farmer had been living since getting out of the King County Jail for the last time in 2011, he’s being hailed as a hero for saving two lives — at the cost of his own.

“Denver teens honor the homeless man who died saving their lives,” was the headline on one Denver TV story.

Police say Farmer was asleep in his old Saab, which doubled as his home, when he woke up to shouting at 4 a.m. June 16. A man was attacking two teenagers, a boy and a girl, nearby. One teen would wind up hospitalized with head injuries.

Farmer got out of his car and rushed into the fray. The kids got away, while the 28-year-old attacker allegedly clubbed Farmer in the head, killing him instantly.

Imagine you had been Farmer. You’re a black man living in your car a…

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