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Elderly Black man victim of killer cops

Published Apr 15, 2009 2:20 PM

According to a Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union complaint, Russell Mills, the white police chief of Homer, La., a small town of 3,800 people 50 miles northeast of Shreveport, said to the Chicago Tribune: “If I see three or four young black men walking down the street, I have to stop them and check their names. I want them to be afraid every time they see the police that they might get arrested. We’re not out there trying to abuse and harass people—we’re trying to protect the law-abiding citizens locked behind their doors in fear.”

This type of openly racist remark is obviously debased, but the police chief’s candor uncovers what many in cities across the U.S. understand to be the modus operandi of police—that groups of Black men, Latinos and Indigenous youths draw immediate suspicion of the police, are profiled and treated as criminals.

Young people of color in general are made to fear walking outside or driving a car because they might be stopped, searched, berated, attacked or possibly killed by police.

Mills’ statement comes in the wake of anger from the latest police killing of a Black person—this time a 73-year-old Black male, Bernard Monroe, who before his death was unable to speak after losing his larynx to cancer.

On Feb. 20, Monroe was hosting a small reunion of family members at his home in Homer. There were more than a dozen people, many of whom congregated outside for a barbecue.

According to reports, two white police drove up. Shawn Monroe, who had been in a vehicle talking to his sister-in-law, then drove into the driveway and went into the house. The two cops followed behind him, chased him out and tasered him in the front yard. Shawn Monroe was not arrested and was released at the scene, as he had no warrants and had committed no crime.

Witnesses say that Bernard Monroe, Shawn’s father, had a bottle of sports water in his hand as he walked toward his front door. He was shot at through the screen door by Tim Cox, the other cop who was still inside the house.

While the police are saying Bernard Monroe had a weapon in his hand, the witnesses at the scene tell a different story. Marcus Frazier, a neighbor, said: “Mr. Ben didn’t have a gun. I saw that other officer pick up the gun from out of a chair on the porch and put it by him.” (Chicago Tribune)

Denise Nicholson, a family friend who was standing near Bernard Monroe, said: “He just shot him through the screen door. After [Monroe] was on the ground, we kept asking the officer to call an ambulance, but all he did was get on his radio and say, ‘Officer in distress.’ “(Hartford Courant)

Witnesses say that the other, yet to be named, cop put on blue latex gloves, picked up a handgun that Bernard Monroe had on the porch sitting in a chair and while ordering everyone to stand back, placed the gun beside Mr. Monroe’s body.

Marcus Frazier further said of the unnamed cop: “I saw him pick up the gun off the porch. I said, ‘What are you doing?’ The cop told me, ‘Shut the hell up, you don’t know what you’re talking about.’” (Hartford Courant)

Terry Willis, head of the Homer NAACP, said in response to Mills’ remark: “People here are afraid of the police. They harass black people, they stop people for no reason and rough them up without charging them with anything.” (Hartford Courant)

The killing of Bernard Monroe, a retired electrical utility worker, has rightfully drawn the ire of the Homer Black community, which is used to police harassment and economically depressed conditions. The Rev. Al Sharpton recently marched with the angry residents and demanded justice for the family of Bernard Monroe.