POLICE BRUTALITY CASES INCREASING

(03/02/2003)

Policemen face difficult challenges every day, and most are doing the best possible job.

But in recent years the number of incidents related to police brutality and misconduct are every increasing.

No charges will be filed against the two Pennsylvania state police officers who shot and killed a 12-year-old boy on Christmas Eve in Uniontown, Pa., a small town 50 miles south of Pittsburgh.

Fayette County District Attorney Nancy Vernon announced that she wouldn’t prosecute the troopers a few days after a coroner’s inquest ruled the shooting to be “justified.”

Michael Ellerbe was shot in the back as he ran from police. The bullet went through his heart, killing him almost immediately. Ellerbe was in a car that he had stolen during the night. The owner of the stolen car spotted it in the early afternoon and notified police. Police chased the car for about a mile before it crashed into a fence and tree. Michael then attempted to escape on foot. He was running between two houses when he was shot.

In justifying the shooting, Vernon greatly expanded upon what is considered to be justifiable grounds for police to shoot at a suspect. “The issue here is not whether [the officer] saw a weapon,” said Vernon. “But whether there was a potential for there to be a weapon in his pocket. It’s irrelevant that he saw or did not see Michael Ellerbe with a gun in his hand. I’m saying they can’t take that chance,” said the prosecutor. Her ruling has far-reaching implications.

During the inquest, which lasted less than a day, police claimed that they shot Michael after one of the officer’s guns accidentally went off and the other officer thought that the boy had shot at them.

The testimony of the police was directly contradicted by that of 10-year-old Melvin Duley who lives across the street from where Michael was shot and watched the chase and shooting from his window. He testified that one officer fired all three shots at Michael.

People who live in the neighborhood where Michael was shot are outraged by his murder, and say that it is a example of how people in their working class neighborhood of Uniontown are treated by the police.

“I don’t think you should kill a 12-year-old boy, black or white,” said Roy Daniel Evans, a disabled truck driver who lives down the street from where Michael was killed. “That is the way I feel. These police had no business shooting at him when he was running away from them.”

The youth did not have a gun and was an honor student.

Lawyers hired by Michael Ellerbe’s father are pinning their hopes on an FBI investigation and a possible civil rights lawsuit, charging that the shooting was racially motivated. However, the killing of Michael Ellerbe is part of a generalized assault on democratic rights under conditions of growing social misery. It was the fourth police killing in southwestern Pennsylvania in recent months.

On December 23, Charles Dixon, 43, died a day after being beaten by eight Pittsburgh-area police officers. Dixon was attending a birthday party for his friend held at a local fire hall. He attempted to defuse a dispute between his brother and two off-duty police officers who were hired for the party as security. The police called for backup and when Dixon walked away he was jumped from behind.

Police lay, kneeled and sat on top of Dixon while they handcuffed him, despite pleas from Dixon that he could not breathe. The weight and force of the police caused Dixon’s lungs to collapse. One officer sprayed paper spray in his face as he lay on the floor.

Bernard Rogers, 26, of Pittsburgh was killed by Housing Authority Police while he was being questioned over illegal drugs. Police claim that they shot Rogers when he pushed and pinned one of the officers onto a sofa. They say Rogers then ran out of the apartment, down steps and collapsed dead in the yard. However, ballistics experts and pathologists testified at an inquest that he was shot through the chest at a downward angle, as if he were shot as he ran down the steps. Both witnesses to the shooting and a shell casing found on the landing support the fact that he was shot as he attempted to escape from police.

On September 7 three undercover Pittsburgh police officers shot and killed 24-year-old Michael Hunter. According to police, Hunter was armed and refused to drop his gun. Witnesses testified that police never told Hunter to drop his weapon and proceeded to shoot him 19 times, with the bullets hitting him in his back and leg. Witnesses also testified that police then allowed their dog to maul Hunter and prevented emergency medical treatment while he lay on the ground dying.

A grand jury in Louisville declined to indict a police detective who fatally shot a black man in December. James Taylor had his hands handcuffed behind his back when policeman Michael O'Neil shot him eleven times.

"The circumstances are very troubling, to say the least," said Dr. Richard Greathouse, Jefferson County Coroner. It was the first time in 29 years that he recalled a handcuffed suspect being "riddled with bullets."

Police claimed Taylor lunged at the detective with an object. The commonwealth's attorney said "Every person in Kentucky, whether citizen or police officer, has the right to self defense."

A West Virginia State Trooper recently shot a suspect after he ran through toll booths of the West Virginia Turnpike.The officer shot the man more than once, claiming he tried to steal his cruiser when he made the stop.

When nearly all the cases are upheld or justified, it becomes unnecessary to define problems and work on solutions, because the police are always right.

EDITOR'S NOTE - Opposing views are welcome.


Hur Herald ®from Sunny Cal
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