Rally demands justice for Frank McQueen

Protesters demand answers, May 9.WW photo: Joseph Piette

Protesters demand answers, May 9.
WW photo: Joseph Piette

Chester, Pa. — Family, friends and Philly REAL Justice Coalition activists rallied on May 9 at the site of the June 2, 2014, police killing of Frank McQueen in Chester, Pa.

Delphine Matthews, McQueen’s mother, brought a yellow school bus and several carloads of supporters to the sidewalk across the street from 1210 Culhane Street, where speakers asked for witnesses to come forward with any information about what really happened there after 3 a.m. last June 2.

McQueen was a 34-year-old Black man studying for a master’s degree, and the author of the novel “Red Devil” and two other books. A 2011 interview with the writer can be heard at tinyurl.com/ngzuj7t.

Missing details, many questions

Almost a year after he was shot over 20 times and killed by the Chester Police Department, very little other information has been released. The police were quick to release McQueen’s criminal record, but a criminal record alone does not justify police shootings.

After an internal police investigation, the Chester Police Department claimed the shooting was justified, saying a police officer suffered a minor wound from the alleged gun police claim McQueen fired at them as he was leaving his estranged girlfriend’s home.

But many questions remain. Who fired the first shot? Why were so many shots fired? What were the names of all the police involved? Do any of the involved cops have a history of police violence? Did the bullet that hit Officer Matt Stewart come from friendly fire or another gun? Did forensic evidence prove that McQueen’s hands were covered with telltale firearm discharge residue? What about fingerprints? Were there any witnesses other than cops? Were there any videos of the incident? Why was the full police report never made public?

The coroner’s report has not been made public, and McQueen’s personal belongings have still not been released to his mother.

Appeal for eyewitness information

Rally participants handed out fliers to drivers in passing cars, asking them to honk their horns if they opposed police brutality. Protesters talked about the case with area residents drawn by the chants and sound-system-amplified voices.

The whole group marched with banners and signs while chanting, “No justice, no peace” and “Justice for Frank McQueen” and handing out fliers to bystanders in the suburban neighborhood.

Chester, a city of 34,000, has one of the highest rates of people living in poverty in the U.S., with more than 33 percent of the population below the federal poverty line. Seventy-three percent of Chester’s residents are Black. (neighborhoodscout.com/pa/chester/)

Chester police were also questioned about the killing of a 30-year-old man in 2012. An aspiring rapper who performed in Philadelphia, Noahcell Bagley was fatally shot by cops after a traffic stop. Facing an outstanding arrest warrant against him, Bagley fled and was shot in the back of his right arm and buttocks.

“A Taser could have taken him down,” his mother Barbara Bagley said. “We all make our decisions in life. Noah made his. Does that give the officer the right to take his life? These are the questions left unanswered.” (Wilson Times, Jan. 21, 2013) Bagley’s mother is white and his father is Black.

The district attorney cleared police of any wrongdoing because allegedly “At the time that the officer discharged his service revolver, the officer was in a situation where he reasonably believed his life to be in danger of serious bodily injury or death.”

Delaware County prosecutors refused to reveal the cops’ names in the shootings of both McQueen and Bagley. In nearby Philadelphia, prosecutors also refused to reveal the names of cops who killed Brandon Tate Brown, a Black man also killed after a traffic stop. (Wilson Times, March 5, 2013)

Just as in the cases of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and untold other Black men and women, the police are systematically allowed to shoot and kill whenever they claim fear of harm. Refusing to release all details about police-involved shootings raises further criticism of the so-called justice system.

McQueen’s family is demanding that all information and evidence be released and an independent investigation be conducted.

A community event in honor of McQueen’s life will take place on June 6 at Chalmers Park at 30th Street and Lehigh Avenue in Philadelphia. All proceeds will go to a college fund for McQueen’s ­children.

Anyone with information about Frank McQueen’s death should contact Delphine Matthews at 267-393-3823.