Saturday, April 26, 2014

To Serve Protect & Break A ______'s Neck

Last weekend I watched the Spike Lee classic "Do The Right Thing" and it brought back at lot of memories. Lee did a remarkable job in capturing that particular moment in time,1989. Those year's were pivotal for both me and New York City. I turned 18, graduated high school, and got my drivers license. I grew up in the eighties, and came of age in New York in the eighties. It was a decade in which police brutality seemed to make front page news almost every year with its victims receiving little or no justice, or peace. Here are just a few of their stories.

A few days before Halloween in 1984 Eleanor Bumpurs pulled a knife on NYPD officers when she was being evicted from her apartment. Officer Steven Sullivan fired 2 shots from his 12 gage shot gun. One pellet struck Bumpers in the hand and the other nine struck her in the chest. killing her. Sullivan was tried and acquitted in 1987, but in 1990 the city put and end to all legal proceedings relating to the case by agreeing to pay the Bumpurs family $200,000, indicating culpability on their part but not directly admitting guilt.

In 1987 Prosecutors investigating the death in city custody of 28-year-old Yvonne Smallwood were faced with conflicting reports from witnesses about her struggles with the police and with problems in determining the origin of a fatal blood clot in her leg.

The contradictions and uncertainty point up the difficulty of establishing a case against any individual in the Dec. 9 death, which came after she spent a total of six days in courts, hospitals and jails waiting for an arraignment on assault charges.

Lawyers for her family and for the man she lived with assert that she died as a direct result of police brutality. 

However, the lawyers have provided differing accounts of where exactly they believe she was fatally injured.

At least six witnesses to confrontations between police officers and Miss Smallwood said in interviews that they saw nothing to back up the charges by Miss Smallwood's companion that the police had kicked and beaten her. A seventh witness, made available by one of the lawyers for an interview, said he did see the police beat her at the time of her arrest on Dec. 3.

Five witnesses reached independently said that the 275-pound woman was flailing wildly at the officers and trying to bite them and that the officers restrained her but did not use what the witnesses considered excessive force. A sixth witness, a city social worker provided by Mr. Harper's lawyer, C. Vernon Mason, for an interview, said the woman was ''thrown to the ground'' and kicked by the officers.

Edmund Perry was a 17-year-old Harlem resident who was shot to death by a plainclothes policeman on June 12, 1985. The case briefly generated a firestorm of protest in New York City when it was revealed that Perry was an honor student and was enrolled to attend Stanford on a scholarship. However, 23 witnesses claimed that Perry and his brother had attempted to mug the officer, and the shooting was ruled justifiable.

Lee Van Houten, a 24-year-old plainclothes policeman, was on assignment in the Morningside Park section of Manhattan on the night of June 12, 1985, when he was assaulted by two men who attempted to mug him. According to Van Houten, he was approached from behind and yanked to the ground by his neck, where two black men beat him and demanded that he give them money. He drew his gun from his ankle holster and fired three times, hitting Edmund Perry in the abdomen. The other attacker fled, and was later identified by witnesses as Jonah Perry, Edmund's brother. 

Van Houten was cleared of any culpability in the shooting. Jonah Perry, an alumnus of the Westminster School in  SimsburyConnecticut was later put on trial for assaulting Van Houten. He was found not guilty.


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