Social media is doing what our elected officals won't do in dealing with the national police problem
Cleveland Leaders Bypass Prosecutors to Seek Charge in Tamir Rice Case
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and MATT APUZZOJUNE
WASHINGTON — Community leaders in Cleveland, distrustful of the criminal justice system, said Monday that they would not wait for prosecutors to decide whether to file charges against the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year. Instead, they will invoke a seldom-used Ohio law and go directly to a judge to request murder charges against the officers.
The highly unusual move is the latest sign that some African-Americans in Cleveland and around the country have lost confidence in a system that they see as too quick to side with police officers accused of using excessive force against blacks.
The investigation into Tamir’s shooting was handed to the county prosecutor last week, but local leaders are skeptical because of how similar cases have ended. In New York, a grand jury did not indict in the death of Eric Garner, who had been put in a chokehold by a police officer. State and federal authorities said there was no evidence to charge Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Last month, prosecutors said a white police officer in Madison, Wis., would not be charged for killing an unarmed 19-year-old man.
“The writing is on the wall,” said a lawyer for Tamir’s family, Walter Madison, who worked with the community leaders as they planned to seek charges. “If you look at every other instance, it ends up unfavorable to the families.”
The community leaders said they intended to file their request on Tuesday morning in municipal court. One of them provided The New York Times with copies of six affidavits they planned to file, which outline the crimes they say were committed.
Ohio is one of a handful of states that allow residents to request an arrest without approval from the police or prosecutors. It is difficult to know how the case will play out because there is little precedent for a citizen to request an arrest in such a contentious, high-profile case.
Mr. Madison said that he knew of no instance in which an Ohio judge had ordered the arrest of a police officer based on a citizen complaint, but that most previous complaints had been frivolous.
Shooting deaths by officers over the past year have prompted the most significant national discussion on policing since the 1991 beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. The debate has highlighted, among other things, the differences in how prosecutors handle cases involving investigations of police officers.
In a typical murder case, prosecutors often present only their best evidence to a grand jury in order to get an indictment. Arguments that a shooting was justified are typically not made until much later, at trial.
In cases involving police officers, prosecutors are more likely to let grand jurors hear conflicting testimony or see evidence favorable to the officer. Critics say that has established two standards for bringing charges: a high one for police officers, and a much lower one for everyone else.
A task force appointed by President Obama recommended in March that all cases involving the use of force by police officers be handled by independent prosecutors to “demonstrate the transparency to the public that can lead to mutual trust between community and law enforcement.” In the Cleveland case, however, Cuyahoga County prosecutors will decide whether to bring charges. Those prosecutors work regularly with Cleveland police officers, a closeness that activists have said is a conflict of interest.
After Death of Tamir Rice, Pain Lingers
Family and friends of Tamir Rice, 12, struggle with their loss five months after a Cleveland police officer fatally shot the boy as he played with a toy gun in a park.
By Brent McDonald and Michael Kirby Smith on Publish Date April 22, 2015.
By going directly to a judge, community leaders are trying to circumvent that process. Ohio law allows anyone with “knowledge of the facts” to file a court affidavit and ask a judge to issue an arrest warrant. If approved, the arrest would be followed by a public hearing, and community members said that was preferable to allowing prosecutors to make the decision in secret.
“Here we are taking some control of the process as citizens,” Mr. Madison said. “We are going to participate without even changing the law.”
Tamir was fatally shot in November while he played in a park. A 911 caller had reported that the boy was waving a gun that was “probably fake.” When officers arrived, they pulled their car into the park, next to the boy. Within two seconds, an officer, Timothy Loehmann, shot Tamir in the abdomen. The boy’s gun, it turned out, was a toy replica of a Colt pistol and fired plastic pellets.
Ex-South Carolina Officer Is Indicted in Shooting Death of Black Man
By ALAN BLINDER and TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson, Rodney Scott and the Scott family’s lawyer spoke after Michael T. Slager, a former police officer in South Carolina, was indicted in the fatal shooting of Walter L. Scott.
By Associated Press
A former police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was indicted Monday by a grand jury on a murder charge in connection with the April shooting death of Walter L. Scott, which was recorded by a passer-by and became a resonating symbol in the national debate about police behavior.
The former officer, Michael T. Slager, had been jailed on a murder charge since April 7, when the video became public. Mr. Slager’s lawyers have so far made no request for bail, and his indictment in Charleston County had been widely expected.
The North Charleston Police Department fired him after the shooting, which city officials criticized in stark and unsparing terms.
Despite the intensive publicity surrounding the shooting, Scarlett A. Wilson, the local prosecutor, said Monday that she believed a local jury could be impaneled and would be able to arrive at an unbiased verdict. A trial date has not been set.
Under South Carolina law, there is only a single murder charge, which Ms. Wilson described as being an “unlawful killing with malice aforethought” — with the premeditation required to exist for only a few seconds before a killing in order to gain a conviction.
Mr. Slager was indicted by a grand jury on a murder charge on Monday in connection with an April 4 shooting. Credit Charleston County Detention Center
“As long as malice is proven in the heart and mind, the state has proven its case,” she said.
The case was presented to the grand jury on Monday morning, and the panel returned the indictment within a few hours.
“The prosecutors’ work has just begun,” she said.
Rodney Scott, a younger brother of Walter Scott, said the Scott family was satisfied with the indictment.
“We are happy and pleased about that right now,” Mr. Scott said.
Video Shows Fatal Police Shooting
In video provided to The New York Times, a police officer in North Charleston, S.C., is seen shooting an apparently unarmed man after a scuffle following a traffic stop.
Publish Date April 7, 2015.
Andrew J. Savage III, the lawyer representing Mr. Slager, said in a statement Monday that he had not yet received material related to the case from prosecutors.
“The grand jury is a formal step, but just another step in the criminal process,” Mr. Savage said. “Until we have an opportunity to fully evaluate the state’s case and to compare it with our own investigation, we will not be commenting on any aspect of the case.”
The fatal encounter on April 4 began when Mr. Slager, who is white, stopped Mr. Scott, who was black, for a broken taillight while he was driving in North Charleston, South Carolina’s third-largest city. A dashboard camera in Mr. Slager’s patrol car recorded the first minutes of the stop, and the video showed a mostly routine interaction between a driver and an officer.
But Mr. Scott, 50, soon fled on foot — his family believes that he ran because of outstanding child-support obligations that he feared would lead to his arrest — and Mr. Slager gave chase. Once the officer caught up with Mr. Scott, there was apparently a tussle over the officer’s Taser.
When Mr. Scott turned and ran, Mr. Slager fired eight times; some of the bullets struck Mr. Scott in the back.
A pedestrian recorded the shooting and some of its aftermath on a cellphone and provided the video to Mr. Scott’s family, which turned it over to the authorities. After the video became public, many observers focused on a moment in which Mr. Slager appeared to drop an object, possibly his Taser, near Mr. Scott’s body.
Critics have also accused Mr. Slager and Officer Clarence W. Habersham, who was the first officer to arrive after the shooting, of providing insufficient medical attention to Mr. Scott.
Mr. Scott’s death became a rallying point for critics of police conduct after months of protests about the deaths of black men at the hands of officers in Ferguson, Mo., and on Staten Island. People staged peaceful demonstrations in North Charleston, a city of about 104,000 people, after Mr. Scott’s death.
Mr. Slager, a former member of the Coast Guard, joined the North Charleston force in 2010. Before Mr. Scott’s death, Mr. Slager had been the subject of two formal complaints, including one for excessive force after he used his Taser while he pursued a burglary suspect.
The city cleared Mr. Slager of wrongdoing in that 2013 case, but the man involved in the episode, Mario Givens, has been among those to announce since Mr. Scott’s death that he would pursue civil litigation against the former officer and the North Charleston authorities.
Police records obtained by The New York Times show that Mr. Slager was involved in 19 use-of-force episodes during his tenure as a police officer, including the shooting death of Mr. Scott and the encounter with Mr. Givens.
Of those 19 episodes, the records show, at least 14 involved Mr. Slager’s using his Taser in some manner. Mr. Scott’s shooting was the only time that Mr. Slager fired his handgun while on patrol.
A version of this article appears in print on June 9, 2015, on page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: Ex-South Carolina Officer Is Indicted in Shooting Death of Black Man. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe
Jarring Image of Police’s Use of Force at Texas Pool Party
By CAROL COLE-FROWE and RICHARD FAUSSETJUNE 8, 2015
Protesters gathered Monday at a swimming pool in McKinney, Tex., where a police officer last week was recorded throwing a teenage girl to the ground. Credit Cooper Neill for The New York Times
McKINNEY, Tex. — No lives were lost. The incident played out at a suburban pool party, not an urban neighborhood struggling with crime and drugs.
But perhaps it was that suburban setting that helped make the images so powerful and disturbing. Now a video of a police officer pointing a gun at teenagers in bathing suits and shoving a young black girl’s face into the ground has become the latest flash point in relations between the police and minorities.
The cellphone video, taken at the community pool in Craig Ranch, a racially diverse subdivision north of Dallas, has set off another debate over race and police tactics, with activists calling for the officer to be fired and others arguing that the blame should fall at least in part on the teenagers.
The video appears to show the officer, David Eric Casebolt, briefly waving his handgun at young partygoers who approached him as he tried to subdue the teenage girl on Friday. The officer ultimately immobilized the girl by putting her facedown on the ground and placing a knee on her back.
A video shows a police officer detaining a 14-year-old girl on Friday and pulling a gun on other teenagers after a disturbance at a neighborhood pool party in McKinney, Tex.
Chief Greg Conley of the McKinney Police Department said that the video had prompted an internal affairs investigation and that Officer Casebolt, a patrol supervisor, had been placed on administrative leave.
One adult man was arrested on charges of interfering with the duties of a police officer and evading arrest, Chief Conley said. The 14-year-old girl who had been immobilized by Officer Casebolt was “temporarily detained” but ultimately released to her parents, he said.
Benét Embry, the host of an Internet-radio talk show, lives in the neighborhood and said he had seen the party grow out of control. Mr. Embry said as many as 130 young people had attended the party.
He said some of them scaled the pool’s fence after being turned away from the entrance by a security guard, who eventually called the police.
“As an African-American male, of course I had a concern seeing a 14-year-old African-American female in a swimsuit on the ground,” Mr. Embry said in a phone interview on Monday. “Of course I had concerns when I saw the officer pulling a gun. That’s when I started thanking God that nobody got hurt. But I don’t believe that the officer was coming out to pick on black kids.”
Texas Police on Pool Party Incident
Greg Conley, the chief of police in McKinney, Tex., said Sunday that a police officer had been placed on leave after video surfaced showing him pushing a girl during a pool party on Friday.
McKinney, with around 150,000 people, is a fast-growing, mostly middle-class suburb with deep racial and economic divisions. In 2009, according to an article in The Atlantic, the city settled a lawsuit in which it was accused of hindering the construction of affordable housing in the western part of the city, which is more white and more affluent.
The pool party took place on the west side, in a neighborhood that residents said is usually marked by friendly relations among black, white, Hispanic and Asian residents.
In a statement, the Police Department said officers arrived at the pool around 7:15 p.m. on Friday, responding to a call about a “disturbance involving multiple juveniles at the location, who do not live in the area or have permission to be there, refusing to leave.” The department, the statement added, received “several additional calls related to this incident advising that juveniles were now actively fighting.”
Mayor Brian Loughmiller said in a statement that he was “disturbed and concerned by the incident.”
On Monday evening, a diverse group of several hundred people gathered at an elementary school for a peaceful protest, waving signs reading, “Don’t tread on me or my kids” and “Stop Police Brutality.”
Speakers used a bullhorn to call for the respect all citizens, and for sensitivity training for the McKinney police.
Earlier in day, activists outside Police Headquarters said the youths had been subjected to racial bias, and demanded that Officer Casebolt be fired. Dominique Alexander, the president of the Next Generation Action Network, a civil rights group, said it was an “illusion” that youths had been jumping the fence. “They had every right to be there,” he said.
After the video spread quickly online, criticism poured in from around the country. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said that it while it did not have all the facts about the party, “what we do know is that the police response, as seen on the video, appears to be a textbook case of overuse of force.”
In a video posted to YouTube on Sunday, a black teenager named Tatiana said her family was hosting a cookout for friends when a woman insulted them, prompting a 14-year-old family friend to respond. Tatiana said a white woman had then told her: “You need to go back to where you’re from” and to “go back to your Section 8 home.”
Tatiana said that she had replied, “Excuse me,” and that then another white woman hit her in the face and “both women attacked” her.
Mr. Embry, the neighbor who saw the party, said he had not seen a fight involving blacks and whites.
He described a party that began with a D.J. playing music in a nearby park, but that soon grew out of control as the security guard began turning away more teenagers than were allowed in the pool area.
The video of the police response shows Officer Casebolt using profanity and shouting at teenagers as he and others officers try to round up some of them and shoo others away from a chaotic scene. He appears to grab the girl in frustration when she does not leave the area.
In an interview with KDFW-TV, the girl identified herself as Dajerria Becton. She told the television station that she had been invited to the party and had not been involved in a fight.
Brandon Brooks, 15, who shot the video, told a TV station that Officer Casebolt had not confronted him, one of the few white teenagers at the party.“I was one of the only white people in the area when that was happening,” he told the station. “You can see in part of the video where he tells us to sit down, and he kind of like skips over me and tells all my African-American friends to go sit down.”
Carol Cole-Frowe reported from McKinney, and Richard Fausset from Atlanta.