Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri came as no shock to the hundreds of Americans of color who have lost loved ones in officer-involved shootings. Below, some of these people discuss their experiences and share their thoughts on the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Brown this summer.
Nicholas Heyward Jr.
Thirteen-year-old Nicholas Heyward Jr. was playing “cops and robbers” in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project in 1994 when NYPD Officer Brian George mistook the teen’s toy rifle for a real weapon. George fired one shot into Nicholas’ stomach, killing him.
Then-Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes declined to convene a grand jury in the case, or to directly press charges against George. The shooting was ruled a justifiable homicide.
Twenty years later, Nicholas’ father, Nicholas Heyward Sr., is still fighting to keep the memory of his son alive. He’s distraught by both the recent death of Akai Gurley — another unarmed black male shot and killed by a police officer in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project — and the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson. Heyward spoke to The Huffington Post by phone this week. It was clear from his voice that he was close to weeping.
HEYWARD: Honestly speaking, whenever I hear of an innocent victim being killed by the police, I’m in tears. It hurts me so much. I know the officers aren’t going to ever be held accountable.
Here’s what I would say to [Michael Brown’s] family: “Just continue to speak out and expose the truth.”
My son was an outstanding student, an outstanding child, very helpful around the house. When my son was alive, in this community, he’d be talking to senior citizens on a bench out here. He was always willing to suck in knowledge from the adults. I remember when I went up to open house at school one night, when we both walked through the door, the principal pointed to my son and said “He’s always in my office,” and I was like, “What you been up to?!”
But then principal said, “No, he helps me out. He’s an outstanding student.” I was so overwhelmed by that. He was an amazing kid. I don’t just say that because he’s my son, but what others have told me about my son also.
My experience has been to organize with those who can identify my pain. You have to talk about that pain, because it’s never gonna go away. As the years go on, it gets worse, because you see that it’s constantly, constantly happening. You don’t want another family to experience the pain and hurt.
That’s why I’m still out here 20 years later. They’re murdering our kids and they’re getting away with it too much. I haven’t done enough out here because they’re still killing our children. And until that stops, I won’t stop.
This Tuesday marked eight years since Sean Bell, 23, was killed by a hail of NYPD bullets in Queens. He was unarmed. Later that day, he was supposed to get married.
The three officers who faced charges were eventually acquitted. On Monday night, Bell’s mother Valerie watched the announcement of the Ferguson grand jury decision. She shared her thoughts with HuffPost the following day.
BELL: Yes, I watched it. And I really had no words at the time. All I could say was “wow.”
I texted Michael Brown’s mother before the decision. I said, “Keep your head up no matter what the decision is, because you gotta be the voice for your son.”
[Tuesday] is the anniversary of my son’s death. It’s like it’s happening all over again. Seeing [Michael Brown’s family], I’m reliving it again with somebody else. Even though they did indict [the officers who killed] my son, the officers still get off. It’s a never-ending story.
I’d tell the Brown family this: You’re never gonna forget it. If I was at work today, I’d be at my desk, crying.
You have to try to help make change. These police officers need to be held accountable. They need to go to jail. If we did the same thing as them, we’d go to jail for life.
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SOURCE: The Huffington Post