Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Robert Mitchell, 16, of Detroit Becomes Latest Victim of Tasing by Law-enforcement

Robert Mitchell, 16, of Detroit Dies After Being Tased by Warren Police

Teen was chased by suburban cops and tased in abandoned home

by Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

DETROIT--Robert Mitchell, 16, affectionately known as "Tazzy" by his family and friends, became one of the latest victims of tasing by law-enforcement.

Mitchell, who had no criminal record, was riding in a car that was stopped by the Warren Police on April 10. Mitchell was with an older relative after they had repaired a tire for his Aunt at a neighborhood gas station. They then offered a ride to a young woman who had missed her bus to get to work.

They were pulled over by the Warren Police, a suburb of Detroit. The passengers in the vehicle were ordered to lay on the ground by the Warren Police while the vehicle was being searched.

According to eyewitness reports, Robert ran from the scene and was chased into the city of Detroit. He took refuge in an abandoned home and was pursued by police. The police officers brought him out of the abandoned home on Pelkey street on the east side of the city.

He was then taken back into the abandoned house and tased by the officers. He then passed out and later died. One of the passengers in the vehicle where Robert was riding said that police told her that the youth had "fainted."

Family Demands Justice

The family of Robert Mitchell are not satisfied with the explaination provided by the Warren Police. The family, along with the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, held a candlelight vigil in honor of Mitchell's memory on April 12. The event was covered widely by the local television and print media in Detroit.

Later that week, family members and supporters within the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, attended a Warren City Council meeting and demanded the termination of the Warren Police officers involved in the death of Mitchell and that the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office file charges against the cops who had crossed over into Detroit where Mitchell died.

A memorial service was held for Mitchell on April 18 at Second Ebenezer Church on the city's east side. Hundreds of family members and friends of Mitchell attended the services and expressed their grief over the incident. The family pledged to continue the fight to have the officers fired and prosecuted.

"He was the storyteller of the family," said Ramell Savage, 14, one of Mitchell's three brothers. He was described as a normal teen by family members who loved sports and music.

Ron Scott, spokesperson for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality (DCAPB), said that "tasers are not non-lethal weapons, they kill. This is why the DCAPB mounted a successful campaign several years ago to ban the use of tasers by the police in the city of Detroit. However, suburban police departments are using this weapon and there has been two deaths recently after this weapon was utilized."

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts questioned whether the police should continue to use tasers. He called for an independent investigation into whether the weapons are safe.

"You can't overlook the tragic death of a human being," Fouts told the Detroit Free Press. (April 15) Mitchell is the second teenager in Michigan to die after being tased in the last month. A 15-year-old Bay City youth also died on March 22.

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