Tuesday, November 28, 2006

New York Police Shooting Victims' Families Attempt to Cope With Vicious Unprovoked Attack

Updated:2006-11-28 17:05:11

Family Members of NYPD Shooting Victim Cope With Shock, Uncertainty

By the AOL BV News Staff
BV News
Shannon Stapleton, Reuters

A man was reflected on the window of a car which was damaged by a bullet on the day Sean Bell, a bridegroom whom police said was shot and killed on his wedding day outside a New York strip club on Saturday, in New York November 27, 2006. Bell was killed and two other men wounded after police opened fire on them, police said.

Protesters Demand Answers From NYPD; Mayor Discusses Shooting

Joseph Guzman, 31, is a bear of a man with two kids and a close-knit family. He now lies in a hospital bed at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica, Queens, his body riddled with at least eleven police bullets after a confrontation with undercover New York City officers last Friday night.

The shooting, outside a Queens strip club, capped a bachelor night party for one of Guzman's friends, Sean Bell, who was killed in a barrage of gunfire and who was to be married just a few hours later to the mother of his two children. A third man -- Trent Bennifield, 23 -- was also shot and is hospitalized in stable condition. The men were not armed and neither of the survivors has been charged with any crimes.

The incident has set off a storm of outrage and anger that has engulfed all of New York City and beyond, raising old questions about police officers, young black man and guns. And the sometimes low threshold across which life is lost when the three come together.

For family members dealing with the tragedy of a dead or critically-wounded relative, and massive media coverage, the events can be both excruciatingly painful and numbing at the same time.

"It's surreal" says Deveter Brown, who is Guzman's 32-year-old cousin. She visited him Monday night in the hospital.

"I'm at a loss for words." She said Guzman was heavily sedated and on oxygen and could not speak. But, she said, he was aware of who was there. "He knew who was coming in and out," she said. "A bullet grazed his face, and he's has what looks like a burn mark on his face." Guzman is listed in critical condition.

"It just doesn't feel real to see my cousin laying up in a hospital bed. I mean, his friend was getting married." She said Bell and Guzman were childhood friends.

Even the hospital visit was anxiety producing, she said. Beyond the worrying about her cousin's prognosis, Brown said that a large police presence makes the hospital on 150th Street in central Queens, feel like an armed camp. "Just getting the visitor badge you feel intimidated."

The police commissioner, Ray Kelley, has acknowledged that the officers made some unusual moves during the shooting. Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown has pledged that a case will be presented to a grand jury, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has declared the police response "unacceptable" and "inexplicable."

Which only makes it more painful for Brown and her relatives, who say the men involved -- especially her cousin -- were not the trouble-causing type. "Joey is the kind of guy who diffuses situations not starts them," she said, recalling that he was a big wrestling fan when he was younger. "He and his dad were always wrestling, but when it got too rough, he was always the one to say 'Alright. Enough; let's stop.' "

Already, she said, family members are worried about the outcome: "The most disturbing thing about this is that these officers are on paid leave; that this is not the first time that this has happened in New York City; that we might not get justice." she said. "Is there going to be any justice?"

2006-09-11 09:37:59


Pan-African News Wire said...

November 29, 2006

For 5 Officers, No Shots Fired for Years, and Then 50 at Once

New York Times

The identities and career paths of the police officers involved in Saturday’s fatal shooting of an unarmed bridegroom in Queens began to slowly come into focus yesterday, revealing a handpicked team of officers responsible for several hundred arrests between them without ever having fired a round in the line of duty.

The first to open fire Saturday is a 28-year-old black man of Haitian descent who lives with his mother in Brooklyn. One officer is white, a 12-year veteran, who has made by one account more than 600 arrests. And a third, the youngest, recently transferred to the team after four years working in Midtown Manhattan where he was known for his wit, street smarts and dry sense of humor.

The Police Department, under orders from Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, refused to identify or provide biographical information on any of the officers, citing concerns for their safety. But two of their names and biographical information on a third have emerged in interviews with acquaintances and people familiar with the case.

The shooting, with five officers firing a total of 50 rounds at the car that was carrying three men leaving the Club Kalua, a strip club in Jamaica, has prompted political and community outrage. The team of officers consisted of five detectives — one of them a woman — an officer and a lieutenant. They were part of a team investigating the bar for narcotics and prostitution. Neither the female detective, who was working undercover, nor the lieutenant opened fire.

A second detective working undercover, a man, suspected one of the three men leaving the club of carrying a gun and followed them to their car, according to officials familiar with the officers’ account of events.

The male undercover officer is 28, a six-year veteran. He fired the first shots after confronting the men and being hit by their car. An acquaintance of the officer said yesterday that Saturday’s shooting had left him “ a little shaky,” adding, “He was upset.”

The officer grew up in Brooklyn, is single and lives with his mother, the acquaintance said. He has only 50 or 60 arrests because he has been undercover for most of his career, the acquaintance said. The number is low because undercover officers are not usually credited with arrests and, in fact, are expected to leave the scene before other officers make arrests, to protect their cover. He has one citation for meritorious police duty.

“He feels very bad for the family of the deceased,” the acquaintance said. “He feels badly that this had to come to this. He sincerely, sincerely felt that he was in mortal danger. He’s never fired his gun before and he hopes he will never fire it again.”

He fired a total of 11 shots as the other officers also fired. The bridegroom, Sean Bell, who was to be married that day, was killed, and his two friends wounded.

One detective, Michael Oliver, 35, fired 31 rounds, according to an individual who knew the identities of the officers involved but was not authorized to release them.

Detective Oliver, who is white, joined the department 12 years ago, and has more than 600 arrests to his name, and multiple arrests involving guns, which the individual said underscored a history of restraint with his own firearm. His name was reported yesterday in The Daily News and The New York Post.

The lowest-ranking member of the team was Officer Michael Carey, 26, with four and a half years in the department, a fast-rising officer with a dry sense of humor, according to those who worked with him at the Midtown South Precinct in Manhattan. He began as a member of an impact team, a group of several officers assigned to an area experiencing a spike in crime.

A sergeant at Midtown South who knew Officer Carey personally and had supervised him there said: “Some people come out with a drive, and some people are lazy kids. He was a good learner. He excelled more than some other cops.”

Officer Carey had made more than 50 arrests during his first year in Operation Impact, breaking up drug and prostitution scams in Hell’s Kitchen, the sergeant said. “You got to be street smart. You got to be aware. He proved himself.”

When it came time to move up, Officer Carey was promoted directly to the precinct’s Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit, which the sergeant said “was showing a lot of confidence in him.”

“Usually you get patrol. They sent him right to S.N.E.U., because he was so good,” the sergeant said. “They saw his drive.”

Two months ago, the sergeant said, Officer Carey was transferred to the vice squad in Queens.

The sergeant described Officer Carey as quiet, with a dry wit. “He’s not the type to run off his mouth,” the sergeant said.

The highest-ranking officer at the shooting was Lt. Gary Napoli, 48, with 22 years on the job. He took cover when the shooting began and did not fire, the police said. A man answering his telephone at his home in Westchester County said, “Goodbye, no comment,” and referred calls to the department’s public affairs office before hanging up.

Lawyers for all of the officers who fired their weapons have said their clients will waive immunity and appear before the grand jury investigating the shooting. Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney, whose office is leading the inquiry, has acknowledged that his office has been contacted by lawyers for the men.

Yesterday, a person involved in the inquiry said that investigators had requested reams of evidence, including photographs, 911 tapes and ballistics reports from the Police Department, as well as past complaints about the club and telephone records of the officers involved.

Prosecutors received the Police Department’s preliminary report yesterday, which the person said raised as many questions as it answered, adding, “We’ve just begun to scratch the surface.”

Commissioner Kelly said investigators located another witness yesterday. “We have identified another witness and he is being debriefed now,” the commissioner said at a news conference. Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman, later said the witness had been a customer of the club that night. “He’s in the immediate vicinity of the shooting when it happened,” he said. “We’re talking to him now. He’s an independent civilian witness.”

Another law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said investigators were looking for several witnesses in the area.

“Based on certain witness statements, there are other people who were walking to their cars at the time,” the official said. “We can’t say they saw it, but they may have.”

Investigators also plan to review recordings from video cameras inside and outside the club, in an effort to identify the approximately 40 patrons inside.

Sewell Chan and Nicholas Confessore contributed reporting.

November 29, 2006

Wounded Man Tried to Escape a Violent Past, a Friend Says


It was a critical moment in the deadly sequence of events that unfolded outside a Queens strip club early Saturday: in a crowd in front of Club Kalua, Joseph Guzman, according to the police, shouted, “Yo, get my gun.”

An undercover officer working at the club trailed Mr. Guzman and his friends to their car a couple of blocks away — giving up his undercover role and inserting himself into a potential arrest.

The officer, according to the account a colleague said he gave, confronted the group with his own gun drawn. A moment later, 50 shots had been fired, killing one of Mr. Guzman’s companions, Sean Bell, who was to be married later that day, and wounding Mr. Guzman and a third man, Trent Benefield.

Mr. Guzman, it turned out, had no gun in the car. Neither did anyone else. The officer’s fear, if that was what motivated him, was unfounded.

Since the shooting, little has emerged about Mr. Guzman, 31, and Mr. Benefield, 23, or their version of those events. Mr. Benefield, according to a law enforcement official, has said he thought Mr. Bell, 23, panicked when he saw the armed officer, mistaking him for a threat and prompting him to step on the accelerator, setting off the crash that escalated the confrontation.

But as prosecutors and the police seek to learn the details of what happened, Mr. Guzman’s actions, particularly as the police have portrayed them, seem destined for serious scrutiny.

Mr. Guzman has had several run-ins with the law in his life, records show, but his family and friends insisted he later embarked on a different path.

Mr. Guzman, it turns out, had completed a parole term on Nov. 4, a year after he was released from Bare Hill Correctional Facility in Malone, in upstate New York, where he served more than two years for selling cocaine to an undercover police officer on school grounds in Queens. He had earlier arrests dating back to 1992 that led to guilty pleas to disorderly conduct.

Mr. Guzman’s most serious crime was committed in 1995, records show. It was then that he was arrested and sent to state prison for a gunpoint robbery in Queens, during which he appears to have fired his weapon at the man he was robbing. He served nearly two years.

Last Saturday, Mr. Guzman himself became a victim. Seated in the passenger seat of the car driven by Mr. Bell, he was shot at least 11 times by one or more of the five officers who fired their weapons in the 4 a.m. darkness, wounded from his neck to his feet.

“There is no evidence that they were doing anything wrong,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Monday of Mr. Guzman, Mr. Bell and Mr. Benefield. “Clearly they were victims.”

Mr. Guzman remained in critical condition at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica under the fiercely protective watch of his oldest sister, Yolanda Guzman, 34. On Monday, Ms. Guzman refused to let investigators from the Police Department’s internal affairs division into his hospital room, certain that they meant harm, according to a family friend.

Outside the hospital room, Mr. Guzman’s family and friends have sought to paint a softer portrait of him — as a father, a brother, a soon-to-be husband..

Charles Aziz Bilal, who said he had known Mr. Guzman for 20 years, said Mr. Guzman had been trying to turn his life around since his last stay in prison.

He and other friends say Mr. Guzman’s sister has acted as a surrogate mother to Mr. Guzman ever since their mother, Ruby Mae, and father, Joseph Anthony, died within a year of each other, she of breast cancer in August 1992 and he of a stroke in May of the following year, when Mr. Guzman was 17. A second sister, Ruby Guzman, was traveling from Virginia yesterday to be at her brother’s side.

Two months after his mother died, Mr. Guzman was arrested for assault, but pleaded to a lesser charge, disorderly conduct. From then on, he was in and out of jail, and has served a total of 5 years and 7 months in jails or prisons.

But Mr. Bilal said Mr. Guzman, who worked as a bricklayer, tried to straighten himself out after his last release from prison in October 2005.

"He became a good role model for his kids,” said Mr. Bilal. For all his run-ins with the law as a teenager and adult, Mr. Bilal said Mr. Guzman had been a happy-go-lucky child, with an enduring fascination with cutting hair. During his boyhood in South Jamaica, he routinely set up his own little barbershop, Mr. Bilal said, and cut the neighborhood kids’ hair free with one of his most treasured possessions: haircutting clippers.

Mr. Guzman still cuts people’s hair, and nurtured a passion for basketball, too. He grew into a muscular teen and finally a large and stocky man. He fell in love with a woman named Eboni Browning, now his fiancée, the mother of his two young sons. Ms. Browning appeared briefly in front of the hospital on Saturday but burst into tears when she was asked questions by reporters.

It was not clear how Mr. Guzman and Mr. Bell met. Several of Mr. Bell’s friends said that, unlike Mr. Benefield, they did not know Mr. Guzman very well. One of Mr. Bell’s close friends, Mike Jones, 23, said he had only seen Mr. Guzman with Mr. Bell once or twice, and only in recent weeks.

It was also unclear whether Mr. Guzman was to attend Mr. Bell’s wedding, even though he was part of the bachelor party celebration and was with him until the violent end.

Ann Farmer, Daryl Khan and Michelle O’Donnell contributed reporting.

November 29, 2006

Bloomberg Meets With Family of Young Queens Man Killed by the Police


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg went to Queens yesterday to meet the parents and fiancée of Sean Bell, the 23-year-old man killed in a hail of police bullets on Saturday, as he continued his efforts to soothe tensions in the aftermath of the shooting.

During his private meeting with the family, which lasted nearly an hour, Mr. Bloomberg sat in a front pew at the Community Church of Christ, in Jamaica, with Mr. Bell’s parents, William and Valerie. Nicole Paultre, who was to have married Mr. Bell on Saturday, later joined them, as did her mother.

Nearby, in the church’s sanctuary, were the Rev. Al Sharpton, State Senator Malcolm A. Smith, Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott and the church’s pastor, Bishop Lester L. Williams. In separate television interviews, Mr. Williams said he had invited the mayor to attend Mr. Bell’s funeral on Friday, but Mr. Bell’s mother said she would prefer to have only close friends and family.

“I tried to express my deepest sympathies for their loss,” the mayor said at a news conference.
“I don’t think that any parent can understand what it would be like to lose a child until it happens, and I just pray that for most of us parents, we never find out.” He added, “There’s nothing the mayor can do to bring back their son or their fiancé.”

While some have called for rapid action in the case, the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, who is leading the investigation, acknowledged that some community leaders he met with on Monday might have been disappointed when he told them that the inquiry was in its most preliminary stages.

“They didn’t hear what it is perhaps they wanted to hear, that it would be immediately presented to a grand jury and that we would immediately seek an indictment,” he said. “There is just a great deal of work that needs to be done before we can make any judgments with respect to where we’re going.”

Mr. Brown said he could not discuss specifics of the case, despite the public interest. “My primary responsibility is to ensure that nothing compromises or prejudices my investigation,” he said. “And a discussion of that which purportedly occurred, based, in many instances, on preliminary information and in unsubstantiated facts, would be inconsistent with that responsibility.”

There were no signs that the furor over the shooting would die down soon. Mr. Sharpton announced last night that he would visit the scene of the shooting today with the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and Ms. Paultre. Also yesterday, Amnesty International USA, the human-rights group, called the shooting “part of a pattern of questionable police tactics and abuse.”

Local N.A.A.C.P. officials held a news conference last night and said they would call on the United States Justice Department to investigate whether there were any federal civil rights violations in the shooting. “Every rule in the book was violated in this case,” said Leroy Gadsden of the N.A.A.C.P.’s Jamaica branch.

After leaving the church yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg traveled to Thomasina Catering in St. Albans to meet with about 50 community leaders. Afterwards, at the news conference, the mayor acknowledged that relations between the police and the community were far from perfect.

“There were people that stood up and said we’ve made a lot of progress and there were people that stood up and said we have a long ways to go,” the mayor said. “And I think both of those groups were right on target.”

With Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly at his side, Mr. Bloomberg also conceded that many black New Yorkers believe that the Police Department practices racial profiling, although it is prohibited by city policy.
“There’s a feeling among an awful lot of people that kids, particularly teenagers, young men, get stopped based on the color of their skin, and the commissioner and I both said that that is, No. 1, not the policy.”

Despite facing criticism from two police unions, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Detectives’ Endowment Association, Mayor Bloomberg defended his decision to characterize the shooting as “excessive.” But the mayor said, “I am a civilian, I’m not a professional law-enforcement officer,” and added, “That was my personal opinion.”

Mr. Kelly declined to characterize the shooting. “I can’t afford to have a visceral reaction,” he said. “I’m in charge of a 52,000-person organization. I’m also the final determiner as far as discipline is concerned in any process that goes forward. So I reiterate that I think we need this investigation to go forward as quickly as possible.”

But after Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, died in a hail of 41 police bullets in 1999, it took nearly two months for the Bronx district attorney to obtain murder indictments against four officers from a grand jury. Then, the trial was moved to Albany after an appellate court ruled that the officers could not receive a fair trial in New York because of huge demonstrations there. The officers were acquitted in 2000.

Representative Charles B. Rangel, a Manhattan Democrat, said at a breakfast with business leaders that a prolonged investigation could fuel anger. “This is a very bad period for the mayor and the Police Department, because they can’t give any answers,” he said, adding that he hoped Mr. Brown “realizes that he, too, has a responsibility to answer to the people of New York City.”

Senator Smith, who was at the Monday meeting with Mr. Brown, said he had urged the district attorney to move quickly. “We understood and respected his desire not to compromise that process, or end up going too fast and blowing the case, but we believe he has to move expeditiously,” he said.

Mr. Kelly said yesterday that the undercover officer who fired the first shot on Saturday might have had a drink, but that drink would have been consumed at least three hours before the shooting, he said.

Participants in the meeting with Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly offered a mix of reactions. “I think the mayor was being open and candid,” said Manuel Caughman, an aide to Assemblyman William Scarborough. “He told us as much information as possible.”

Others expressed frustration. Dorothy N. Ogundu, a physician, urged the police to improve training. “Let’s pray over the dead, but first, let’s help the living,” she said. “Let’s make sure one more person doesn’t die unnecessarily like this.”

Still others said they believed the meeting was held mostly to keep them quiet. “Underneath, we’re not calm,” said Irene Marcelle, a retired school counselor. “We don’t feel the mechanisms are at work to really bring peace and justice.”

Robert A. U. Hogan, president of the residents association at the Baisley Park public housing project, noted the absence of young people at the meeting. “No one in that room,” he said, “is going through what the young people are going through in this community.”

Daryl Khan, Colin Moynihan and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.

Pan-African News Wire said...


‘Stop racist killer cops’

Killings of 23-year-old unarmed groom, 92-year-old woman are not
isolated acts

By LeiLani Dowell
and Dianne Mathiowetz
New York and Atlanta
Published Nov 30, 2006 12:59 AM

Sean Bell was killed on what was supposed to be the morning of his
wedding, Nov. 25, when police unloaded more than 50 bullets into the car he and two friends—all African American and all unarmed—were in. The three were leaving Bell’s bachelor party in Queens, N.Y.

Bell’s friend Joseph Guzman is in critical condition after being hit at least 11 times. The other, Trent Benefield, was hit three times. A report from New York in the Sydney Morning Herald said the two had been shackled to their hospital beds. (Nov. 28)

One white officer alone, Detective Mike Oliver, emptied a full magazine of bullets, reloaded and then emptied a second magazine—a total of 31 bullets. New York Police Department policy on shooting at moving vehicles clearly states that police cannot fire at a moving vehicle “unless deadly force is being used ... by means other than a moving vehicle.”
(AP, Nov. 26) The officers involved were placed on administrative leave, yet are still being paid.

Not just ‘bad apples’

Authorities are scrambling to come up with excuses for Bell’s death. The police claim that one of Bell’s friends made reference to a gun.

“Experts” discuss the problem of “contagious shooting”—which was
amplified in 1993 when the NYPD switched from revolvers to semiautomatic weapons. The media is quick to point out that a multinational group of officers were involved in the incident—two white, two Black and one Latino—to downplay the racism in the killings. However, to reiterate, all the victims are Black.

But despite any excuses and “bad apple” theories, police violence and terror in communities of color is systemic, not individual. The police act as an indiscriminate, armed occupying force, with the mentality that the poor and people of color are disposable. Brutality against these communities is a daily occurrence.

As if to prove this point, the next day in the Bronx police attacked and then arrested Juanita Young, an activist against police brutality and the mother of Malcolm Ferguson, who had been killed by the NYPD in March 2000. According to a press release by the October 22nd Coalition, as many as eight cops participated in the attack, kicking her in the chest and back.

In addition, the group TransJustice has called for a press conference and rally on Nov. 29 to denounce the Nov. 1 beating and arrest of two African American men beaten by cops in the West Village of New York City. When a white male police officer pushed a young African-American woman without provocation, 23-year-old African-American college student Shakur Trammel requested his badge number. In response, the officer punched Trammel in the face and chest, threw him onto the police van and choked him with his nightstick. Eyewitnesses report that between four to six mostly white cops then kicked and punched Trammel and another African-American man who was being very vocal about his outrage at Trammel’s beating.

*State violence grows with class tensions*

Frederick Engels, Karl Marx’s closest collaborator and co-founder of scientific socialism, described the state as a public power that “consists not merely of armed men but also of material adjuncts, prisons and institutions of coercion of all kinds.” Engels continues to explain, “It [the public power] grows stronger ... in proportion as class antagonisms within the state become more acute.” (Engels, “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,” 1884)

Anger in poor communities and communities of color is growing over the lack of jobs, healthcare and social services, the number of soldiers coming home dead or maimed from a war for big business, the news that the rich are getting even richer while the poor are still getting poorer. As during the Vietnam War, the ruling class fears organization and rebellion in the communities. The police apparatus is stepped up to keep these communities in line, to remind them of their “place.”

But this kind of repression inevitably leads to resistance. At a rally held the day after Bell’s killing, New York City Councilperson Charles Barron told the crowd, “I am fed up. I am not asking my people to do anything passive anymore. ... Don’t ask us to ask our people to be peaceful while they are being murdered. We are not the only ones that can bleed.”

A rally against the police state is planned for Dec. 6, 4:30 p.m., at One Police Plaza in downtown New York City. A statement by the December 12th Movement, organizers of the event, reads, “The issues on the agenda include the police profiling of Black youth; NYPD/
Homeland Security occupation of the Black community; police aggression, harassment and overkill, as well as President Bush’s assault on Habeas Corpus; the erosion of civil rights; and Iraq war for oil.”

Atlanta cops kill 92-year-old woman

Police brutality of course is not unique to New York City. In Atlanta, 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston was killed Nov. 21 when an Atlanta drug squad executed a “no-knock” search warrant at her home.

Johnston’s neighborhood is close to an area known for drug trafficking and crime. According to her family, she was very concerned about being victimized and so had bars on her windows and doors and a permit for a pistol.

When Atlanta police pried the bars off the front door and broke it down, Johnston fired her rusty gun in self-defense, wounding three of the cops. They responded with a barrage of bullets.

Initially, the police claimed an undercover agent had purchased drugs at her home. Then the story changed: an informant had purchased crack cocaine with city-supplied funds at the address.

This informant allegedly told police that there were surveillance cameras at the house—an element which increased the likelihood of a “no-knock” warrant being granted. On Nov. 21 around 6 p.m., a Fulton County magistrate issued that warrant, based on an affidavit with these details submitted by narcotics investigator Jason R. Smith.

Barely more than an hour later, Atlanta police smashed through the front door of Johnston’s home.

Outraged neighbors and family insist that she lived alone. No one recognizes the description of the drug suspect, “Sam,” named in the warrant.

Johnston’s long-time neighbor Curtis Mitchell said, “I think that’s just something they made up.” Her niece, Sarah C. Dozier, agreed, saying, “As far as I am concerned, they shot her down like a dog.”

That suspicion was verified six days after Johnston’s death, when the informant publicly stated that he provided no such information to the police. He says that shortly after the shooting occurred, police called him, telling him to back up their story. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he has told internal affairs investigators and local media that the police fabricated the whole thing and told him to lie about his role in it. (Nov. 28)

Johnston’s killing came on the same day that the district attorney in adjacent DeKalb County announced that she will ask a grand jury to review a string of deadly police shootings there to determine whether criminal charges should be filed. Organized pressure forced this move by local officials, though it is only a modest response to community demands for police accountability and civilian review.

Since January 2006, DeKalb police have shot and killed 12 people and
admit that several officers violated standard procedures. A 13th person died in custody after being hit with a baton and pepper-sprayed. Just days before the DA’s announcement, a 34-year-old woman was fatally shot by a police officer who said she came at him with a knife. Others at the scene said that she was scared and running away.

Congressperson Cynthia McKinney made a formal request on Nov. 25 for an immediate Department of Justice investigation into “a developing national pattern of police misconduct and abuse.”

From New York to Colorado to Milwaukee to Georgia, family members, community activists and progressive elected officials have demanded not only answers to what happened to these individuals but an end to police disregard for the lives of residents of working class and poor neighborhoods.

For weeks in Atlanta, there have been vigils, press conferences, rallies and other protests that have forced the issue of police killings into the public spotlight. Over and over, the people have made it clear: “No justice, No peace.”

Pan-African News Wire said...

Woman, 92, Dies in Shootout with Atlanta Police

By Greg Bluestein, Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) - Many people on the rundown northwest Atlanta street where Kathryn Johnston lived fortify their windows with metal bars and arm themselves for protection. Johnston, 92, was no exception. She was waiting with her gun on Tuesday night when a group of plainclothes officers with a warrant knocked down her door in a search for drugs, police said. She opened fire, wounding three officers, before being shot to death, police said.

Assistant Police Chief Alan Dreher called the killing "tragic
and unfortunate" but said the officers were justified in returning fire.

"You don't know who's in the house until you open that door," Dreher said Wednesday. "And once they forced open the door, they were immediately fired upon."

The Rev. Markel Hutchins, a civil rights activist and spokesman for Johnston's family, said he could understand why the elderly woman would arm herself.

"She was afraid," Hutchins said. "This is a horrifying situation in a neighborhood where crime happens often. This incident is a result of a mix-up."

The officers had gone to the old woman's house with a search warrant after buying drugs from a man there, police said. Dreher would not say how the dealer knew Johnston.

District Attorney Paul Howard said that his office is looking into the shooting but that a preliminary review indicates the officers had a right to search the home.

Crime and drugs are a part of the landscape in the rough neighborhood where Johnston lived, and her neighbors said they do what it takes to protect themselves.

"It's the roughest neighborhood in Georgia," said 56-year-old Allen Pernel, who lives a few blocks from Johnston's home. "If she thought somebody was coming into her house, she did what any of us would have done."

Al Harley, a 50-year-old homeless man who hangs out in front of a neighborhood convenience store, said residents follow a sort of credo: "Don't let anyone disrespect your door."

The police chief said the officers had identified themselves and then forced open the door of Johnson's house of 17 years. Johnston was alone in her house, police said.

Bullets struck Investigator Gary Smith, 38, in the leg and Investigator Cary Bond, 38, in the arm. Investigator Gregg Junnier, 40, was hit in the leg, the face and his bulletproof vest. They were taken to the hospital and are expected to recover.

Johnston had no children and her closest relative was a 75-year-old niece, neighbors said.

"She hardly came outside her home," said Tameka Walker, 28, who lives behind Johnston's house and used to visit her. "She's not a 92-year-old grouchy old woman you think she was. She's a very nice person."

Associated Press Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. contributed to this report from Atlanta.