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Indictments and Trials Finally Come in Police Shootings of Blacks, Minorities

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent @StacyBrownMedia

Recent indictments and convictions suggest a swinging pendulum, and at least some cracks in the “Blue Wall” that all too often conspires to hide details and protect officers guilty of unjust shootings of African Americans and others.

Prosecutors in Chicago have won an indictment, alleging that three Windy City police officers conspired to protect a fellow officer after he fatally shot a Black teenager, Laquan McDonald, in 2014. The officers did so in spite of available videotaped evidence of the shooting, prosecutors said.

McDonald, who was 17, was armed with a knife when he was shot 16 times.

In Dallas, Texas, an officer was indicted last week on murder charges, nearly three months after she shot and killed an unarmed Black man whose apartment she said she entered by mistake, believing it to be her own.

Also, in the last week, four Missouri police officers were indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the assault of a fellow officer who was working undercover. Officers Dustin Boone, Randy Hays and Christopher Myers of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, are accused of beating the undercover officer with a riot baton and tampering with witnesses to cover up the incident.

Myers was also charged with destroying evidence and Officer Bailey Colletta was indicted on a charge of providing false statements to a federal grand jury in connection with the incident.

According to CNN, the indictment details text messages between Myers and Boone in which they talk about how much fun it will be to beat “the hell out of these s**theads once the sun goes down and no one can tell us” apart.

In Chicago, prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes said in her opening statement that defendants David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney offered accounts of the deadly incident that conflicted with the video evidence. The defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice. The bench trial is expected to run into next week, according to Reuters.

Earlier, a jury found former Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is white, guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting of McDonald.

What all of trials instances shares in common beyond the fact that officers are involved, and face prosecution, is that the perpetrators were white officers and the victims are all Black males, and with the exception of McDonald, were unarmed when they were injured or killed.

“For all the sacrifices and headaches of covering the murder trial of Chicago Officer Jason Van Dyke, it was worth it. Finally seeing a police officer led out of the courtroom left me speechless,” said Erick Johnson, who covered that trial for the Chicago Crusader.

“Dressed in a black suit, he looked as if he was going to his own funeral. Only I, and a handful of Black clergy and activists in the courtroom were not mourning,” Johnson said, noting that “Silently, we were rejoicing.”

The conviction, which led to Van Dyke being marched out of the court in handcuffs, was a day many Blacks in Chicago never thought they would see, said Johnson, who sat in the front row reserved for media and just yards away from Van Dyke.

“A white police officer found guilty of killing Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager, and locked up immediately after his historic conviction. For Black Chicago, it was the trial of the century, a moment they had been waiting for a long time,” he said.

“For this Black journalist, it was history unfolding before my very eyes. It was a story that changed Chicago forever and the climatic ending was about to take place in courtroom 500.”

Meanwhile in Dallas, Amber Guyger told fellow officers that she opened fire when Botham Jean appeared in the darkness. Jean, a 26-year-old native of the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, attended college in Arkansas and had been working in Dallas for accounting and consulting firm PwC.

Jean’s relatives joined the district attorney for the announcement of murder charges against the disgraced officer. “I truly believe that she inflicted tremendous evil on my son,” Jean’s mother, Allison said after the announcement of the charges, according to ABC News. “He didn’t deserve it. He was seated in his own apartment.”

Guyger was arrested on a mans- laughter charge three days after the Sept. 6 shooting, prompting criticism that the original charge was too lenient.

But Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said at the time that the grand jury could upgrade the charge, which it did last week.

“When you look at the facts of this case, we thought that it was murder all along,” Johnson said.

After finishing her shift, Guyger told investigators, she returned home in uniform and parked on the fourth floor of her apartment complex’s garage, rather than the third floor, where her unit was located, according to an affidavit prepared by the Texas Rangers.

She said she got to what she thought was her apartment — Jean’s was directly above hers — and found the door ajar. She opened it to find a figure standing in the darkness.

She said she pulled her gun and fired twice after the person ignored her commands.

And, in St. Louis where the four police officers were indicted for the September 2017 incident, prosecutors spelled out that each were assigned to a Civil Disobedience Team that conducts crowd control, in anticipation of a protest against the acquittal of Officer Jason Stockley.

Stockley was a St. Louis police officer in 2011 when he fatally shot a Black driver, Anthony Lamar Smith, after a police chase.

Stockley, who is white, claimed he was acting in self-defense because he believed Smith was reaching for a gun. Prosecutors argued that Stockley planted the gun to justify the shooting.

When Stockley was acquitted, protests erupted.

A 22-year veteran of the St. Louis Police Department – referred to in the indictment as L.H. – was in the crowd working undercover as a protester to document crimes among the demonstrators so law enforcement could make arrests, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that Boone, Hays and Myers threw L.H. to the ground without probable cause and began to kick him and strike him with a riot baton.

According to Thursday’s indictment, L.H. “was an experienced undercover officer who specifically wore a shirt that revealed his waistband so that he would not be mistaken for being armed.”

Once Myers, Boone and Hays learned that L.H. was a police officer, the indictment says, they made false statements justifying the assault, contacted L.H. to dissuade him from taking legal action and contacted witnesses in an attempt to influence their testimony.

Myers also destroyed L.H.’s cellphone “with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the investigation,” according to the indictment.

Most of the text messages in the indictment between Myers, Boone and Hays include expletives, according to CNN.

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