AL Man Police Killed at Mall ‘Was Murdered,’ Father Says

Emantic Bradford Jr, the 21-year-old African-American man who was killed by a police officer on Thanksgiving at a mall in Hoover, Al., was shot three times from behind, according to an independent autopsy released by civil rights attorney Ben Crump.

Emantic Bradford Jr, the 21-year-old African-American man who was killed by a police officer on Thanksgiving at a mall in Hoover, Al., was shot three times from behind, according to an independent autopsy released by a civil rights attorney, The Guardian reports. His father said the report showed his son was murdered. Dr. Roger Mitchell observed gunshot wounds to the right side of Bradford Jr’s body, in his head, neck and lower back. The report states: “The cause of death is gunshot wound of the head. Manner of death is homicide.”

After Thanksgiving dinner with his family, Bradford Jr went to the mall. Gunfire broke out. A 12-year-old girl and an 18-year-old man were injured. Initially, Hoover police identified Bradford as the suspect. They later said he was not the suspect, but had “brandished” a gun. Police backed off that claim too. A week after the shooting, a suspect was arrested in Georgia. On Monday, through the lawyer Ben Crump, the Bradford family said: “[The autopsy] clearly demonstrates that EJ posed no threat to the off-duty Hoover police department officer who killed him while working a private security detail … since EJ was moving away from him.” Until they commissioned the private autopsy, Bradford’s parents said, they had no idea what happened to their son. They and attorney Crump  said they had asked repeatedly for police and state agencies to release any videos of the incident. That was why it was necessary to commission the autopsy, Emantic Bradford Sr said, adding that he wanted people to understand “what happened to my son and how he was murdered, ’cause that’s what I’m going to say. He was murdered.”


Ex-Dallas Officer Indicted for Erroneous Fatal Shooting

Fired officer Amber Guyger was indicted for killing Botham Jean, an unarmed black man, in his apartment. Guyger says she mistakenly thought Jean was an intruder in her apartment and that he didn’t respond to her commands.

A Dallas County grand jury indicted former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger for murder on Friday, reports the Texas Tribune. Guyger shot and killed Botham Jean, an unarmed black man, in his Dallas apartment on Sept. 6. Guyger, 30, killed Jean after returning to her apartment complex from a late-evening shift. She said she entered Jean’s unit thinking that it was her own and that she shot Jean because she thought he was an intruder. Guyger was arrested three days later on a manslaughter charge, but remained on the payroll until Sept. 24, when the Dallas Police Department fired her. Questions surrounding the case have had international attention, with a focus on whether Guyger knew she was entering the wrong unit, and if she was justified in using deadly force as a police officer, given that Jean was in his own apartment. Public backlash targeted the police department for waiting almost three weeks to fire Guyger.

Guyger said that the door was “slightly ajar” and that the interior was dark when she entered, so she was unable to see that it was the wrong apartment. Guyger said she drew her gun when she saw a “silhouette,” gave verbal commands that were ignored, and that she fired two shots, with one hitting Jean in the torso. Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said the case won’t go before a jury for at least a year.  “There is still a journey ahead of us,” Johnson said. “We thought that it was murder all along. At the moment of the shooting, it was an intentional and knowing offense.”


Incoming Dallas DA: Charge Ex-Cop With Murder

John Creuzot, Dallas’s incoming district attorney, says that former police officer Amber Guyger should be charged with murder, not manslaughter, in the shooting of Botham Jean at his apartment. Guyger, 30, said she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own and believed he was an intruder.

John Creuzot, Dallas’s incoming district attorney, says that former police officer Amber Guyger should be charged with murder, not manslaughter, in the shooting of Botham Jean at his apartment, reports the Dallas Morning News. Creuzot says  murder would be the “most appropriate charge” based on his knowledge from news coverage of the Sept. 6 shooting.  Dallas County authorities have charged suspects in similar cases with murder, he said. Creuzot, who will take office in January, told WFAA on Sunday that the case is likely to go before a grand jury before the end of the year. Prosecutors will present a charge to jurors who can vote on whether to indict Guyger, which would allow the case to go to trial.

Guyger, 30, was charged with manslaughter three days after she fatally shot Jean. She said she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own one floor below and shot him, thinking he was an intruder. Guyger was later fired from the Dallas Police Department. The Texas Rangers and district attorney’s office are conducting separate investigations into the shooting.  Jean’s family has said Guyger should be charged with murder, and about 170,000 people agreed in a petition submitted to outgoing District Attorney Faith Johnson on Sept. 28.


Witness Contradicts Police in Illinois Security Guard’s Death

Days after a speedy Illinois State Police exoneration of a local police officer who shot and killed a security guard in a bar melee, an eyewitness who worked with the victim has contradicted key elements of the official version of events.

Contradicting a speedy Illinois State Police exoneration of a local police officer who shot and killed a security guard in a bar melee, the Chicago Tribune reports that one of victim Jemel Roberson’s fellow security guards insists that Roberson was wearing a cap and sweatshirt that had the word “Security” on them. State police on Tuesday defended the actions of a suburban Chicago police officer who killed Roberson on Sunday, claiming that the guard was not wearing a uniform and ignored verbal commands to drop his weapon. But, in an interview with the Tribune on Thursday in which he described Roberson’s clothing, Dorian Myrickes said he and Roberson were part of the six-person security team trying to break up a fight between two groups of men when a patron started shooting and Roberson ended up holding the shooter at gunpoint. Myrickes said a police officer from Midlothian warned Roberson to drop his gun but fired at him within “not even five seconds” of the warning.

Myrickes’ account adds fuel to the controversy that has arisen over the shooting of Roberson, who is black, by the Midlothian officer, who is white and has since been placed on leave. The shooting took place while the officer and others responded to a “shots fired” call at Manny’s Blue Room Lounge in Robbins. “Everyone started panicking, running in different directions,” Myrickes said. “I stumbled out the front door. … That’s when I ran into the (Midlothian) police officer (who) had the AR-15, and he pointed it straight at my head, he said, ‘Put your hands up.’” Myrickes said he told the officer he was a security guard and not to shoot him. The same officer, he said, ran into the bar, aimed his rifle at the bartender, and then shot Roberson.


Mother Sues Over Shooting Death of IL Guard

A federal lawsuit was filed Monday in the shooting death of a bar security guard by a suburban Chicago police officer over the weekend. The mother of guard Jemel Roberson says the death was unprovoked, unjustified and unreasonable.

A federal lawsuit was filed Monday in the shooting death of a bar security guard by a suburban Chicago police officer over the weekend, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Jemel Roberson, 26, was shot to death by a Midlothian police officer  Sunday outside of Manny’s Blue Room Lounge in Robbins, Il. Roberson’s mother filed the lawsuit, alleging excessive force by the unnamed Midlothian police officer, who was called to support Robbins police. The lawsuit called Roberson’s death “unprovoked,” “unjustified,” and “unreasonable.”

Authorities said four people were shot inside the bar after an argument. All four suffered non-life threatening injuries, though it was still unclear who fired the shots that wounded them. As police were responding to the bar, Roberson was able to catch “one of the perpetrators,” the lawsuit states. Roberson was armed at the time and had a valid Firearm Owners ID card. Once police arrived, a Midlothian police officer shot and killed Roberson. The Cook County sheriff’s office said that shooting occurred inside the bar. The lawsuit says it happened outside.


Black and White in Alabama: The Scarred Legacy of a 1975 Police Shooting

The death of Bernard Whitehurst Jr. at the hands of a white Montgomery policeman 43 years ago raised unsettling questions of police bias and official coverup, foreshadowing the #Black LivesMatter movement. A new book re-examines the case, prodded by a son’s quest for restitution and justice.

On a December afternoon 43 years ago, a white police officer in Montgomery, Ala., shot and killed a black man during a foot pursuit in connection with a $45 grocery store holdup on the city’s poor west end.

Officer Donald Foster Jr. claimed he shot only after Bernard Whitehurst Jr., a 33-year-old father of four, had gone into a “shooting crouch” and fired first. He was hailed as a hero.

But there were problems from the start with his account.

The first police backups to arrive found no gun near the dead man. A short time later, a .22-caliber pistol materialized 27 inches from Whitehurst’s body.

The weapon was found to have been confiscated in a police drug raid a year before. It was a throw-down gun, an old-school cop trick in bad shootings. Whitehurst was not the stickup-man, and an autopsy—conducted after an exhumation—showed he was shot in the back.

The shooting, on Dec. 2, 1975,  has hung like lumber-mill stink over Montgomery for decades, despite a belated city apology to the Whitehurst family and erection of two memorial markers in recent years that condescendingly cast the case as a learning experience “to teach powerful lessons to police officers seeking to understand the line between right and wrong.”

book coverA new book by Montgomery native Foster Dickson takes the first long retrospective look at the case, whose racial overtones resonate today in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, in a book published last week, Closed Ranks: The Whitehurst Case in Post-Civil Rights Montgomery.

Just a decade after Alabama’s capital city had gained infamy as a southern bastion against civil rights, the shooting and ham-fisted coverup seemed destined to further scuff Montgomery’s reputation.

But police circled the wagons against a criminal investigation and civil lawsuit. In the end, there were no consequential convictions or civil judgments against anyone. In a final preposterous twist, the fate of accused cops hinged solely on lie detector tests.

One of the driving forces behind the book was the youngest of Whitehurst’s children, Bernard III, who was just 10 weeks old when his father was killed. His family was left fractured and deeply impoverished.

Whitehurst III, a boot-strapper who emerged from housing-project destitution and now operates a successful contracting business, told me that the Montgomery power structure was clinging to institutional racism in the 1970s.

“Black lives didn’t matter in 1975,” he said. “It would have been a totally different outcome if he was killed today. Police officers would have been charged with murder, tampering with evidence, etc. That would have been unheard-of back in 1975.”

Along with his mother and siblings, Whitehurst III has pressed for financial reparation from the city. So far, they have been rebuffed.

“I don’t think compensation will ever heal the pain and suffering my family has endured,” he told me. “But we do deserve some kind of compensation. He was the breadwinner of the household. He worked two jobs to provide for his family, and the City of Montgomery murdered him.”

Key court transcripts were missing; so Dickson, born in Montgomery a year before the shooting, cobbled his narrative largely from interviews and newspaper accounts.

He presents a warts-and-all portrait of the shooting victim, who was the subject of a scathing campaign by cops desperate to show that he was guilty of something—anything.

In one egregious move, police conjured an “eyewitness” six months after the shooting who identified Whitehurst as the robber and a gun-owner.

District Attorney James Evans described the alleged witness as “mentally retarded and a functional illiterate” who was “incapable of self-maintenance.”

Dickson writes, “No matter who we believe or how we judge Bernard Whitehurst Jr. as a person, one truth cannot be denied: He was effectively arrested, tried, convicted, and executed for a robbery he did not commit, all before any police laid a hand on him.”

Officer Foster, a 25-year-old five-year veteran, was absolved of blame under protocols of that era—long-since tightened—that allowed police to shoot at “fleeing felons.” And even that was a contrivance, since Whitehurst did not match the description of the robber, beyond being black.

Foster Dickson

Foster Dickson. Photo courtesy New South Books.

Police chased him for up to 30 minutes, and his flight suggested guilt to Foster.

Running from a cop is not illegal—although it does make the officer’s heart pump and blood boil. Dickson makes a point that Whitehurst had a longstanding reputation as breaking into a trot whenever he saw a police car.

So why did he run from police? Considering the way his life ended, perhaps he was simply clairvoyant.

As Dickson documents well, DA Evans and Harold Martin, editor of The Montgomery Advertiser, were viewed as police adversaries during the investigation and were subjected to “whisper campaigns” about their personal morals.

This back-alley combat continued for 18 months after the shooting. Finally, in 1977, a strange deal was struck in which police officers and bosses implicated in the coverup would take lie detector tests and face dismissal if they failed.

Several cops quit preemptively, including Foster. Five others were fired. Colonel Ed Wright, the city’s hulking public safety director, failed his test and “voluntarily retired.” Mayor James Robinson resigned under pressure, despite passing a polygraph exam. That outcome was big local news at the time, but the historical view is that the men got away with murder.

In 1975, the racial demographic ratio in Montgomery was about two-thirds white and one-third black. Those numbers have flipped today to nearly a 60 percent majority for African Americans.

Dickson told me that his hometown has changed during his lifetime— “and mightily in the last 20 years.”

“I would say that post-Civil Rights Montgomery (and Alabama) maintained a certain status quo through the end of the 1990s,” he said. “The city still has issues to face now…but there are signs of hope that a 21st century mindset is prevailing, albeit slowly.

David Krajicek

David Krajicek

“There is a new kind of honesty about our past and about our challenges. If you ask me, the main difference is our candor about the challenges of racial division and poverty, coupled with a more progressive willingness to address them and seek solutions.”

The body of Bernard Whitehurst Jr. lies moldering beneath the rubble of that progress—shot to death in the twilight of the Jim Crow era, when a white city directorate managed to finesse an outcome in an appalling shooting that left no one notably discommoded but the dead man and his family.

As Herman Harris, a pioneering African-American city councilman in Montgomery, explained to Dickson, “Well, you know, the general pattern in this state or this area of the country at that time: blacks usually came out on the short end of the stick, so to speak.”

David J. Krajicek (@djkrajicek) is a contributing editor of The Crime Report. He welcomes comments from readers.


Two Wild Shootouts Cap Bloody Year for Phoenix Police

Police shootings already had reached record highs for this year in Maricopa County, Ariz. And then came Monday afternoon’s mayhem.

In a year in which police shootings in Maricopa County, Ariz., have already set records — 71, according to an Arizona Republic database — Monday afternoon’s mayhem was particularly noteworthy: within the space of two hours, four wounded officers and two suspects shot dead in standoffs stretching from a Tempe neighborhood where two patrol officers were wounded while serving a protection order to a central Phoenix freeway where a gunbattle erupted during the Monday evening rush hour, The Republic reports. Police have been shot at several times this year but were struck in just three local cases before Monday.

The shootout on Interstate 17 unfolded as scores of unsuspecting motorists drove past — and potentially in the path of — a hail of bullets before authorities cleared the area. Following a car chase, the suspect exchanged shots with officers, all of whom apparently fired while inside their vehicles. Police jumped out as the suspect put his truck in reverse and backed across northbound lanes of I-17, shots still ringing out. Monday’s police shootings were the 70th and 71st this year in Maricopa County, records maintained by The Republic show. At least 37 of those have resulted in the subject’s death, and about three-in-four shootings involved a person who was known to be armed with a real or replica gun. Driven largely by a surge in Phoenix police shootings — 39 this year — the annual tally far surpasses the previous high of 59 police shootings in the county, set in 2013, data show.


Van Dyke Guilty of Second-Degree Murder in Shooting

A Cook County jury found Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, but not the more serious charge of first-degree murder.

A Cook County jury found Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, but not the more serious charge of first-degree murder, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The jury also found Van Dyke guilty of all 16 counts of aggravated battery but not guilty of official misconduct. The judge revoked Van Dyke’s bail, sending him Cook County Jail. Car horns and whoops of celebration could be heard outside the courthouse after the verdict was announced.

The jury reached its verdict in about seven hours of deliberations after three weeks of testimony by 40 witnesses. Jurors saw gruesome autopsy photos, a high-tech digital re-creation of the shooting, and the dashcam video that riled Chicago with its images of McDonald’s final moments. They saw Van Dyke, 40, take the witness stand in a high-risk move. McDonald’s “face had no expression,” Van Dyke said. “His eyes were just bugging out of his head. He had just these huge white eyes, just staring right through me.” Before he took the stand, a psychologist hired by the defense revealed that Van Dyke made a striking comment to his partner listening to police radio traffic as they drove to confront McDonald: “Oh my God, we’re going to have to shoot the guy.” Prosecutors hammered away at that comment in closing arguments.“Laquan McDonald was never going to walk home that night,” prosecutor Jody Gleason said. “The defendant decided that on the way to the scene. You heard what it was that he said. ‘I guess we’ll have to shoot him.’ ” Though the case has long been framed along racial lines, those themes emerged only a few times throughout the trial.


Few Details 10 Days After St. Louis Police Shoot Teen

On Sept. 26, a St. Louis officer shot a 15-year-old boy they say was armed, leaving him critically wounded. Police won’t discuss details, angering activists who said they were promised more transparency after the police shooting of Michael Brown four years ago.

It’s been more than a week since a St. Louis police officer shot a 15-year-old boy they say was armed with a gun, leaving him critically wounded. Beyond that, the department hasn’t said much else, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. What kind of gun was he carrying? Was it loaded? Did the officer yell commands at the teenager before firing? How many times did the officer fire? Is there video showing the shooting? All remain unanswered. The department did not make Police Chief John Hayden or other officials available for updates in the Sept. 26 shooting of Branden Leachman. Public Information Officer Michelle Woodling said the answers were part of an “ongoing investigation.”

The lack of information from the police department has angered activists in a community that was promised — and arguably initially given — more transparency in cases of police shootings after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson four years ago. The 15-year-old’s family says they’re in the dark, too. Jennifer Crawford, 26, said her nephew was shot four times. He has wounds to his thigh, back, right shoulder and the back of his head, she said. “He’s doing better,” Crawford said. “He’s awake and becoming a little alert. He’s not talking yet.” Mayor Lyda Krewson said she was unfamiliar with the department’s protocol as to how it releases information about police shootings, but said she “expects transparency from the police department.”


Chicago’s Van Dyke Makes Risky Decision to Testify

A tearful Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke recounted for a rapt jury what was going through his mind as he fired 16 shots at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald four years ago, It remains to be seen whether his testimony helped his cause. The defense plans to rest its case on Wednesday.

In a soft, halting voice, a tearful Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke recounted for a rapt jury what was going through his mind as he fired 16 shots at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald four years ago, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. On Oct. 20, 2014, Van Dyke recalled jumping out of his squad car and locking eyes with McDonald as the teen advanced on him, holding a knife. “We never lost eye contact. Eyes were bugging out, his face was just expressionless,” said Van Dyke, choking up. “He turned his torso towards me . . . He waved the knife from his lower right side upwards across his body towards my left shoulder.” “When he did that, what did you do?” defense lawyer Randy Rueckert asked. “I shot him,” Van Dyke said

Van Dyke’s 90 minutes on the witness stand came as his defense team prepared to rest their case Wednesday. It remains to be seen whether the officer’s risky decision to take the stand helped his cause in a case that will hinge on whether jurors believe Van Dyke was justified in shooting McDonald. Statements Van Dyke made to his partner as they drove may prove more damaging than anything the officer said on the stand. Talking to psychologist Laurence Miller a few months after he was charged, Van Dyke, 40, said when he heard over a police radio that McDonald had stabbed the tire and windshield of a police cruiser, Van Dyke said to his partner, “Why didn’t they shoot him if he’s attacking them?” Before Van Dyke had laid eyes on the teen, he remarked, “Oh my God, we’re going to have to shoot the guy.” Miller testified that Van Dyke could have suffered from “time distortion” and likely reacted out of reflex when he opened fire.