Son of Peter Tosh dies after prison beating

Posted on August 26th, 2020 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

JawaraThe son of late reggae legend Peter Tosh, himself a successful musical artist who recorded under the stage name Tosh 1, has died at the age of 40. He'd never fully recovered from a brutal 2017 beating in a New Jersey jail, where he was serving time on a cannabis charge.

Peter Tosh's youngest son briefly made headlines three years ago, when he was left comatose by a savage beating in a New Jersey jail— where was serving a six-month sentence for marijuana possession. Now he has followed his legendary father in succumbing to a violent death, if belatedly.

Gamal Jawara McIntosh, who performed under the stage name Tosh 1, died July 17 at his home in the Boston area, the Jamaica Observer reported. His elder brother Dave Tosh confirmed a month later to the Jamaica Gleaner that Jawara's remains had been cremated.

Following the February 2017 jailhouse attack, Tosh 1 was in a coma in a New Jersey hospital for over a year. When he finally regained consciousness, he was sent home to Boston, where he was being cared for by his mother, Melody Cunningham, and sister, Niambe Tosh. He was himself the father of four children.

In an interview with the Jamaica Observer in October 2018, Niambe said that while the family was grateful he was still alive, Jawara was just learning to speak again, and full rehabilitation was a long way off.

Last November, Niambe told the audience at the Peter Tosh Music Festival in Kingston that her brother was slowly making progress.  

"He still has a lot of healing to do still, so I appreciate and know that Jamaica is praying hard for him," she said from the stage. "The prayers are definitely working so please continue to send out your prayers for him because he is definitely missing from the stage tonight, but I know his spirit is with us at the same time. So please, continue to pray for my father's youngest son."

Reggae fans can now only pray for his peace in the afterlife.

Ganja bust becomes death sentence
Jawara McIntosh was arrested in Mahwah, NJ, in June 2013, with police saying they found more than 65 pounds of cannabis in the trunk of his rental car. Billboard reported that Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli said McIntosh had an arrest record that included charges for "disorderly persons offenses, assault, resisting arrest and promoting prostitution." However, the New Jersey activist group Cannabis Patriots Unite refuted Batelli's claims, calling them "slanderous and completely without merit."

Tosh spent more than six months in the Bergen County jail before pleading guilty to possession with intent to distribute. He received a one-year sentence in August 2016. With six months left to serve, he re-entered the county jail in January 2017. Just one month later, he suffered the debilitating attack.

New Jersey's Hackensack Daily Voice reported that a fellow inmate—a Queens man awaiting trial in a home break-in, named as Kyrie Baum—was charged in the brutal beating. He faces a count of aggravated assault for the attack.

In February 2019, Melody Cunningham filed a federal lawsuit against Bergen County, alleging that authorities, including ex-sheriff Michael Saudino and a group of his officers, condoned a "fight club culture" at the lock-up in Hackensack. The county is arguing that it does not oversee the jail and does not control the sheriff or his officers, and therefore has no liability in the case. reports that county counsel filed a brief with the court last July, stating:  "The county does not operate the Bergen County jail, nor is the county the custodian of the prisoners there—instead, the sheriff is."

Saudino, who was sheriff at the time of the attack, stepped down in September 2018 after secretly-recorded racist comments that he made were released to the public. On the tape, aired by radio station WNYC, Saudino speaks with members of his staff about then newly elected Gov. Phil Murphy's proposal to legalize cannabis. He is heard saying that legalization would "let the blacks come in [presumably from New York], do whatever the fuck they want, smoke their marijuana, do this do that, and don't worry about it. You know, we'll tie the hands of cops."

A voice for cannabis liberation
The Justice for Jawara page at the Peter Tosh website now states: "Jawara, you are a true soldier and we are blessed to have you as a son, a brother, a father, and a friend. Please hug and kiss our ancestors for the family. Your legacy lives on through your children, Jahzarah, Jeremaiah, Nazare, and Azariah."

It also makes note of his commitment to cannabis activism: "Within the Rastafari faith marijuana is a sacramental and sacred herb and has many known medicinal properties and values. Jawara has consistently used his own voice as an advocate for legalization, speaking at events like the Freedom Rally in Boston, Massachusetts, as well as in front of the New Jersey State House."

Among his musical contributions as Tosh 1, Jawara recorded a version of his father's classic anthem of cannabis liberation, "Legalize It."

As the Bergen Record recalled, Jawara performed the song outside the New Jersey statehouse at an April 2014 rally calling on state and federal lawmakers to legalize or decriminalize cannabis.

Veteran High Times music editor Steve Bloom, who covered the passing of Jawara McIntosh for his website CelebStoner, offered this comment to Cannabis Now: "It's terrible what happened to Jawara. Clearly he was a victim of the War on Drugs. A marijuana possession with intent to distribute charge was the beginning of the end for him. Several years later, once in jail, Jawara was badly beaten by another inmate. All because he was jailed for marijuana. Like his father Peter, Jawara was persecuted for his love of ganja. He should be alive and well today. Say his name: Jawara McIntosh."

Peter Tosh, who co-founded the Wailers in 1963 along with Bob Marley, was himself murdered during an armed robbery of his home in Kingston in 1987. He was repeatedly targeted by police in Jamaica for his anti-establishment views and open use and advocacy of ganja—on one ocassion in 1978 being badly roughed up.

Niambe Tosh, who works as a teacher in Boston, is also a cannabis activist, and recently co-founded the group Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM).

Cross-post to Cannabis Now

Photo via Billboard  

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