February 1 marks the 5-year anniversary of the murder of 15-year-old Stephon Watts by the Calumet City police. Stephon, who had autism, was shot and killed in front of his father in his own home by officers William Coffey and Robert Hynek. To this day, the courts and police department have failed to deliver any measure of justice to the Watts family.
Young Black males are nearly three times as likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts. Moreover, at least half of the people killed by police have disabilities. (Melber, A., Hause, M., “Half of People Killed by Police Have a Disability.” NBC News, 3/12/16) As a Black teenager with Asperger’s syndrome, young Stephon fell at the intersection of these stigmatized identities.
At 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, the family of Stephon Watts will be joined by community supporters at 735 Torrence Avenue, near the What’s Up bar and grill for a rally and march. Black Lives Matter NWI – Gary will be among the community supporters rallying, against racist police terror, the continuing call of justice for Stephon, as well as for police accountability.
The groups will demand that State’s Attorney Kim Foxx prosecute Officers Hynek and Coffey; a federal Department of Justice investigation into the Calumet City Police Department; a comprehensive disability training for first responders, including police, firefighters, paramedics, and dispatchers, incorporating legislation already proposed through Stephon’s Bill introduced by Robin Kelley; an annual mental/emotional competency screening for police officers to determine their ability to fulfill their civil roles safely and effectively; and finally, the establishment of an Independent Civilian Review Board in the area, to better monitor and create public oversight of the police.