by Trymaine Lee
October 7, 2014
NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT
YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.
A simple traffic stop for an unworn seat belt turned into a nightmare for a family on their way to visit a sick loved one in the hospital, after police officers drew their guns, smashed a window and used a Taser on an unarmed passenger.
According to a lawsuit filed this week, Lisa Mahone of Indiana was pulled over by police officers in Hammond, Indiana while en route to an Illinois hospital to visit her ailing mother. Soon after the stop, Mahone says police laid out spike strips in front of her car.
Officers then order Mahone’s boyfriend, Jamal Jones who was sitting in the passenger seat to get out of the vehicle.
In cell phone video captured by a terrified 14-year-old sitting in the back seat of Mahone’s car, you can hear Mahone on the line with a 911 operator saying that she fears for her life and that moments earlier officers had pulled their guns on the couple.
“I’m scared for my life,” Mahone is heard telling the operator. “He just pulled a gun on us and we don’t have a gun.”
Jones refused to exit the vehicle because he feared for his safety, according to the lawsuit filed on Monday. An officer is then seen in the video smashing through the passenger side window with what appears to be a night stick and shocking Jones with a Taser.
Jones is seen writhing in pain as he’s dragged from the car, placed on the ground and shocked again.
Joseph Ivy, the teenager who shot the video, and his little sister, Janiya, 7, were reportedly injured by spraying glass, according to the complaint. In the aftermath of the arrest, the younger passengers can be heard sobbing.
“He was never told he was being arrested and he was never told why they were ordering him out of the car or asking him to get out of the car,” attorney Dana Kurtz told NBC Chicago. “Thankfully Joseph videotaped it. I mean, what a great, smart 14-year-old to videotape this so there is actual evidence, and to be able to protect them and other citizens from this kind of conduct.”
The lawsuit claims that the two officers involved, Patrick Vicari and Charles Turner, both of whom are white, used excessive force, false arrest and battery against Jones, who is African-American.
Jones was subsequently charged with resisting law enforcement, failure to aid an officer and cited for not wearing a seat belt, according to Hammond police. Mahone was issued a citation for failure to wear a seat belt and a license plate reciprocity violation.
In an interview on msnbc’s The Reid Report, Jones told host Joy Reid that he was so fearful during the stop that “I don’t think a person could have said anything to make me leave my family in the vehicle at that time.”
Jones said that he refutes assertions by the police that he was making furtive movements that put them in fear.
“I just put my hands down and sat back,” Jones said, hoping that police “wouldn’t have did what they did.”
Jones, a barber, said that ever since the police shocked him with the Taser he’s experienced pain in his arm and shoulder, so much so that it has made it difficult to work.
“I’m a barber so I cut hair, any time I move my shoulder it’s jut tense and very sore,” he said. “My body ain’t been feeling right since he put them volts in my body.”
Hammond police said officers took appropriate action after Mahone lurched her car forward after officers pulled her over and Jones’ refusal to step out of the vehicle. In a statement released on Tuesday morning, Lt. Richard Hoyda of the Hammond Police Department said that during the stop Jones’ repeatedly reached toward the rear of the vehicle and that officers feared he may have been reaching for a weapon.
Hoyda said officers pulled over Mahone’s car about 3:45 p.m. on Sept. 24 after they spotted Mahone and Jones not wearing their seatbelts. Hoyda said that Mahone handed over her license when asked but told officers that Jones didn’t have any identification with him.
When officers asked Jones to provide his identification on a piece of paper, he refused to lower his window more than a crack, according to Hoyda.
Jones then told the officer that “he was not going to do his (the officer’s) job,” and for police to provide a piece of paper for him, police said.
Hoyda said officers then called for back-up after Jones refused over and again to provide his identification and was seen reaching toward the back seat.
According to police 13 minutes had gone by and at least three different officers had asked Jones to get out of the car.
“Fearing the occupants of the vehicle may have possessed a weapon, and seeing the passenger repeatedly reach towards the rear seats of the vehicle, the first officer then broke the passenger side window of the vehicle and the passenger was removed from the vehicle and was placed under arrest,” Hoyda said.
“The Hammond Police officers were at all times acting in the interest of officer safety and in accordance with Indiana law.”
Mahone said her children, Joseph and Janiya, who were in the backseat during the incident, have been shaken by the entire episode.
She said Janiya hasn’t been able to concentrate and that her teachers at school say the little girl has been distracted. Joseph has become increasingly fearful of police, Mahone said.
“In light of what has been going on across the country with police brutality it’s not surprising this family felt very concerned for their safety,” the family’s attorney, Kurtz, said.
Mahone said when officers finally allowed her to leave the scene, she went straight to the police station to file a complaint.
Kurtz said the police have yet to contact the family regarding that complaint.
“The lawsuit was filed yesterday, so ultimately this case will go to trial,” Kurtz said, adding that the family is not only seeking compensation for emotional distress, but to usher change in police departments across the country.
The episode is just the latest in a string of troubling encounters between unarmed African-Americans and white police officers, a number of which have been fatal.
In July, police in Staten Island, New York choked to death Eric Garner minutes after accosting him on a street corner for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
Eric Garner’s family to file $75 million lawsuit against NYPD
By Jane C. Timm
10/08/14 02:11 PM
Esaw Garner, left, listens during remarks at a rally to protest the death of her husband Eric Garner, on Aug. 23, 2014, in the Staten Island borough of New York.
The family of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who was killed when a police officer put him in a chokehold, filed notice of a $75 million lawsuit on Wednesday.
The Associated Press reports the notice is the first legal step of the lawsuit, which will seek to hold the New York City police department and six officers responsible for the death of 43-year-old Garner, who was stopped on suspicion of selling cigarettes illegally.
Garner’s death — and the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, days later — sparked protests across the country, as many saw the two deaths as part of a larger trend of discriminatory policing and excessive force used against black men.
In Garner’s case, he told the police to leave him alone. He was placed in a chokehold, a move that’s prohibited by NYPD policy. A cellphone video by an onlooker shows the scene, with Garner — an asthmatic — gasping “I can’t breathe” as the officer choking him lowers him to the ground.
The city medical examiner found that the chokehold contributed to Garner’s death and ruled it a homicide. A grand jury will determine whether or not the city will bring criminal charges against the officers involved.
Another recent incident revived fears of systemic police abuse when a black man, Jamal Jones, was Tasered by cops during a traffic stop. He and his girlfriend, who was driving, were not wearing seat belts at the time. After being stopped by police, the woman called 911, telling the operator “I’m scared for my life.” Jones refused to exit the car, saying he feared for his safety. As two teenagers watched from the back seat, cops broke open the window and Tasered Jones, dragged him from the car before Tasering him again.
In early August, police officers in Beavercreek, Ohio fatally shot John Crawford III at a Wal-Mart store after he’d picked up a toy gun off a shelf. Minutes earlier, a customer had called 9-11 and alleged that Crawford was armed with a gun and aiming it at children and other shoppers. Surveillance video contradicts that Crawford ever aimed the gun at anyone, and captures police gunning him down as he nonchalantly talks on his cell phone while toying with the plastic gun.
Family of Wal-Mart police shooting victim wants officers convicted
By Nisha Chittal
09/25/14 04:11 PM—UPDATED 09/25/14 05:42 PM
In a news conference on Thursday, the family of John Crawford III, a black man shot and killed by police at an Ohio Wal-Mart, demanded that the officers who killed him be brought to justice.
Crawford, 22, was shot on Aug. 5 by two white police officers, Sean Williams and David Darkow, in Beavercreek, Ohio. Crawford was holding an unloaded BB gun/air rifle that he picked up off a shelf in the Wal-Mart store. Another Wal-Mart shopper called 911 and said Crawford was waving the gun at customers, according to audio of the 911 calls released by Beavercreek Police. Police arrived at the scene and shot and killed Crawford. Police say Crawford was shot after he did not respond to commands from police to drop the weapon.
On Wednesday, special prosecutor Mark Piepmeier announced that the Green County grand jury found the officers were “justified” in their actions in shooting Crawford, and that the grand jury had decided not to indict the officers. Following their announcement, the Justice Department announced that their civil rights division would conduct an investigation of the case “and take appropriate action if the evidence indicates a prosecutable violation of federal criminal civil rights statutes.”
Also on Wednesday, investigators released surveillance footage from Wal-Mart cameras the day of Crawford’s death. There is no audio in the footage, so it is unclear whether officers gave commands to Crawford. However, it does appear in the footage that Crawford was not waving the gun at other customers, as was alleged by the 911 caller.
At Thursday’s press conference, Crawford’s father, John Crawford Jr, spoke along with three attorneys for the family, and demanded that the officers involved be indicted for their involvement in Crawford’s death.
“This is not the end. It is just the beginning. We are disappointed, we are not defeated. We will continue to fight for justice,” said attorney Michael Wright.
“Our primary objective as a family is to prosecute the officers. We’re not concerned with the civil issue in terms of a lawsuit or money, let’s be clear about that,” Crawford Jr. said. “Justice is simply getting a conviction for the man who killed my son,” he later added.
In terms of next steps, Wright said: “At this point, we’re weighing our options, but what we’re most concerned about is indictment of these officers.”
The lawyers also discussed the role race may have played in the shooting.
“It was an unarmed black man that got shot and killed in Wal-Mart, and we can’t hide from that. We believe that, yes, had Mr. Crawford been caucasian, maybe the outcome would have been different, but it’s very hard to say in fact that that would have been the case,” said Wright.
“He was a black man who was a U.S. citizen who’s afforded the same rights every American is afforded,” said attorney Shean Williams. “Whether he was a black man, white man, old or young, he’s afforded the same rights every person in America is afforded, and he shouldn’t have been shot, period,” Williams added.
Crawford Jr. also talked about his son’s life, describing his son as a “family man” who leaves behind two children. He also said his son had recently discussed going back to school to further his education.
Ohio Governor John Kasich also said in a statement Wednesday that he agreed with the DOJ’s decision to investigate the case.
“After talking with the attorney general and watching the video myself, I agree with this decision that a review by the U.S. Department of Justice is appropriate. This is a tragedy for the Crawford family and I share the concern of many in the community that this matter must be handled with the utmost seriousness and respect,” Kasich said.
Ohio is also an “open carry” state, meaning it is legal to carry firearms in public, and it is not a crime.
Williams and Wright stressed that Crawford was doing nothing wrong in the store, and the officers who shot him were in violation of the law. “They should not have shot this man. They need to follow the Constitution. There was no justification, no reason … he was no harm to the officers or anyone in the store,” said Williams.
Just days later on Aug. 9, a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed unarmed black teen Michael Brown after the officer stopped the teen while he was walking with a friend from a nearby convenience store. Several witnesses say Brown was fired on as he attempted to run away from the officer and that the fatal shots came as he was turning with his hands up in surrender. The killing sparked national outrage and protests and rioting locally.
On Sept. 10, police in Saratoga Springs, Utah fatally shot Darrien Hunt, who family say was armed with little more than a toy Samurai sword when he was killed. Police say he lunged at them with the toy sword, but inexplicably to Hunt’s supporters, Hunt was shot and killed dozens of feet away from where the altercation allegedly began.
Autopsy report shows police shot Darrien Hunt in the back, lawyer says
By Trymaine Lee
09/15/14 08:15 PM—UPDATED 09/16/14 11:58 AM
In this photo, taken, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014, shows Susan Hunt holding a photo of her family, including her son, Darrien Hunt, at her home in Saratoga Springs, Utah.
Photo by Michelle Tessier/Deseret News/AP
Darrien Nathaniel Hunt was an oddity in Saratoga Springs, a small, well-to-do city in Utah where a pair of white police officers gunned him down last week.
A young black man with a towering Afro, Hunt stood out in this overwhelmingly white city about 30 minutes south of Salt Lake City. So much so that just moments before officers killed him in a barrage of gunfire on Sept. 10, passersby pulled out their cell phones and snapped photos of the 22-year-old with the big hair, bright red shirt and toy sword slung over his shoulder.
“People were taking pictures saying hey, look what I found,” Randall Edwards, an attorney for Hunt’s family, told msnbc. Moments later Hunt was dead, struck with half a dozen bullets. The fatal shot struck him in the back, according to Edwards.
What none of the photos taken by witnesses on Sept. 10 show is what initially sparked the gunfire or any details into the circumstances that led to Hunt’s death.
Police say that officers were responding to a report of a suspicious person walking around with a “samurai-type” sword when they confronted Hunt. They say he brandished the sword and lunged at the officers, at which point they opened fire on him.
Hunt’s family and their attorney are refuting those claims, saying that witnesses saw Hunt running from the officers as they fired on him, that he was shot six times from behind and that he fell and died about 100 yards from where police initially made contact with him.
Edwards, the attorney, said that an independent autopsy conducted at the behest of the family shows that the fatal shot struck Hunt at the center of his back. Five other gunshots struck him from behind, he said, including shots to his legs, shoulder, elbow and hand.
Hunt’s family has also been adamant that they believe his race – his mother is white, his father is black – played a role in the shooting. His mother, Susan Hunt, insists he was killed “because he’s black.”
“I’m in Saratoga Springs, cause it’s a safe little community and they killed him. They killed my son because he’s black,” she told the Deseret News. “No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he’s running away.”
Edwards said the alleged weapon that Hunt was carrying at the time of his death had a blunt edge and was largely decorative – something “you might win at a carnival for knocking over stuffed animals.”
“When you look at those facts, the report from the pathologist and witness statements, it appears clear that the story that has been given out by the County Attorney that he was brandishing a sword and lunging at the officers is at least questionable,” Edwards said. “There were no gunshot wounds from the front, so the question then is what happened. There are only 3 people on earth, 2 people on earth now, who know what went down between those officers and Darrien and one of them is dead.”
Hunt’s killing and the questionable circumstances surrounding his killing comes a little more than a month after the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Witnesses in the Brown case say he was also running from an officer when that officer opened fire on him. Brown’s killing sparked local and national outrage with weeks of protests, some of which turned violent.
“Obviously, when you’re looking at any incident where you have a dead black kid and white officers you’re going to say what going on? Is it a similar situation in Ferguson? Only in that sense,” Edwards said. “Saratoga Springs, Utah, is not Ferguson, Missouri. Officers here don’t have a long history with confrontations with a minority population. That’s what we don’t have. What we do have are a lot of questions of what’s going on and why did this happen. I think that the family, the last thing they would ever want to do is cause or exacerbate race relations in Utah.”
While there hasn’t been any mass protests or marches in Hunt’s name, the story of Hunt’s killing has gone viral with many national news outlets picking up the story. In one seemingly small act of dissent, a page on Wikipedia for Saratoga Springs was edited to say “Saratoga Springs, Utah (Civilian Killers RIP Darrien Hunt).”
The police have denied that Hunt’s race had anything to do with the incident.
Owen Jackson, a spokesman for Saratoga Springs, said the investigation has been handed over to the Utah County Attorney’s Office. Per protocol, he said, the two officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
Jackson said the Saratoga Springs 34-member Police Department was formed in 2007, and that there has never been a police involved shooting death in that time. Jackson said that he is unaware of any previous claims of racial profiling against the department.
About 95% of Saratoga Springs is white, according to recent Census data. It is also home to Mia Love, the city’s most recent former mayor, who is likely to become the first-ever black Republican woman elected to congress. In recent years, the population of Saratoga Springs has exploded, from just over 1,000 in 2001 to 22,000 in 2010.
John Mejia, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, said that the group is calling for an open and transparent investigation while awaiting the conclusion of the county attorney’s own probe.
“I think that there needs to be sort of an openness and willingness to be as public as you can possibly be in this sort of investigation,” Mejia said.
Mejia said there have been about 10 deadly police shootings across the state so far this year, including four since August. Results in just two of those cases have been publicly released, he said.
“There are some deadly shootings that date back to April and this is sort of state-wide issue,” he said. “As lawyers we understand that these things can take a while, but I think the public does start to get uneasy when the results take so long.”
Hunt was the third person shot by Utah police in just three days, according to a report by the Salt Lake Tribune.
While Hunt’s race and the race of the officers who fired on him stand out for a number of obvious reasons, Edwards said that with so many more questions than answers, it’s unclear what roll, if any, race may have played in the shooting.
“When faced with the question ‘did race play a part in this,’ my client will say I can’t think of any other reason they would shoot my son,” Edwards said. “You have this young black man with a pretty big Afro walking down the street carrying what looks like some sort of weapon. It’s a pretty sleepy community. What happened next? And that is where things get very interesting.”
Edwards said that just moments before police shot Hunt, a woman filling her car at a Chevron gas station near the scene saw Hunt and the officers talking and snapped a photo of them. In the photo, Edwards says Hunt and the officers seem calm with their hands all by their sides.
The police aren’t in any defensive position, he said. And it’s unclear if Hunt has anything in his hands.
“She says that within seconds she looked down to finish pumping her gas and he is on the run and they are shooting at him,” Edwards said.
Edwards said the area where she snapped the initial photo and the area Hunt’s body was found is about 100 to 150 yards away. He said the family doesn’t have the resources to conduct the kind of investigation that the government will be able to do. During a vigil on Sunday night, Edwards said he was handing out flyers asking for anyone with information to come forward.
“We really hope the government will do its part and will do an objective, thorough investigation in which the questions we have will all be answered,” Edwards said.
Chief Andrew Burton of the Saratoga Springs Police Department said in a statement Monday night that immediately after the shooting the Utah County Officer Involved Shooting Protocol Team and the Utah County Attorney’s Office were notified, with the former assuming responsibility for the investigation.
Burton said the city would like the investigation to be conducted quickly, but that “the integrity of an investigation is paramount to an accurate outcome, and patience and commitment are required.”
The chief called the investigation “extremely complicated and very in-depth,” with dozens of interviews that need to be conducted, forensics to be analyzed and laboratory tests conducted. He said toxicology tests and lab results must be handed over to the county attorney and that reconstructions of the incident might be required.
All that will be time consuming, Burton said. And in the end it will be the county attorney that decides if the officers involved in the shooting were justified in using deadly force.
“It is difficult to determine how long such a comprehensive process would take,” he said. “The City of Saratoga Springs and the Saratoga Springs Police Department understand the desire on the part of the media, the family, and the public for more information about what occurred. However the City and the Police Department are unable to provide that information concerning the investigation because we are not conducting the investigation and cannot appropriately answer the questions.”
In the meantime, Hunt’s family is devastated, reeling after the death of a man they described as eccentric but gentle, Edwards said. They are planning funeral arrangements and waiting on details of the investigation to emerge.
The family is hoping to bury Hunt on Wednesday or Thursday of this week.
“The reason we had the autopsy done is for the family to get answers about what happened and why. We still don’t know. At this point it’s difficult to suggest what the motivations were for the officers or really what happened,” Edwards said. “All I can say is that it seems unlikely that you brandish a sword, you jump toward the officers, lunging toward them and end up shot in the back.”
In South Carolina, on Sept. 26, a police officer was arrested and charged with aggravated assault over his response to a routine stop at a gas station earlier in the month. The cop, who is white, stopped an African-American for a seat belt violation on Sept. 4, according to the report. When the driver reached into his vehicle to grab his ID, the officer suddenly fired several gunshots at him, the video allegedly showed.
SC trooper fired for shooting black motorist charged with assault
By David Taintor
09/25/14 12:57 AM—UPDATED 09/26/14 11:36 AM
A police car with lights ablaze responds to a call.
A South Carolina police officer was arrested Wednesday and charged with aggravated assault over his response to a routine stop at a gas station earlier this month, The State newspaper reported.
MORNING JOE, 9/25/14, 6:26 AM ET
Ex-trooper who shot man to face charges
The incident was recorded on what appeared to be the officer’s dashboard camera.
The cop, South Carolina State Trooper Sean Groubert, who is white, stopped Levar Jones, who is black, for a seat belt violation on Sept. 4 near Columbia, S.C., according to the report. When Jones reached into his vehicle to grab his ID, Groubert suddenly fired several gunshots at him, the video allegedly showed.
“Get out of the car! Get out of the car!” Groubert could be heard shouting before firing off several rounds. After the shots were fired, Groubert told the man to drop to the ground.
“What did I do, sir?” Jones asked the officer after being shot.
Groubert was fired from the force last week after an investigation into the incident by the State Law Enforcement Division, WLTX-TV reported. He reportedly could face up to 20 years in jail if convicted.
Jones was shot in the hip and was treated at a hospital, according to The State.
The issue of police tactics has come under national scrutiny in the wake of the police shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown last month in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s death set off a string of protests, and authorities responded to the unrest with heavy-handed police tactics.
Across the country, encounters with the police are being captured on video by citizens, some of which show how volatile and dangerous encounters with police can be.