Revolution #74, December 24, 2006

NYPD Rampage of Murder and Brutality


Even as the people’s anger continues to mount after the cold-blooded NYPD execution of Sean Bell on Nov. 25, the cops are still on a rampage of murder and brutality. One of the latest victims: 19-year-old Timur Person, his young life suddenly snuffed out by the police on Dec. 13 in South Bronx.

Timur Person was struck by four police bullets, at least one hitting him in the chest. His “crime”? The police say he was standing with three other youths on Walton Ave. when the cops came upon them. The youths began to run—a completely rational reaction if you’re young and Black, and you know the cops may jack you up at any time without any real cause, other than the fact that you’re young and Black. Two cops cornered Timur in the foyer of an apartment building, and then shot him dead.

And once again, we get the same infuriating rationale, from the same script used by the cops over and over again. The police say they did what they had to do because, they claim, Timur was armed, but witnesses say he had been trying to surrender. As one person who was at the scene said: “He was just standing there… He surrendered and they still shot him.” A crowd of people gathered at the scene of the shooting, yelling at the police and demanding justice.

Timur’s mother, Allene Person, said her youngest child was just two days shy of turning 20. “I can’t cry,” she said, as she banged her hands against the fence outside the hospital where Timur had been taken and pronounced dead. “I can’t get the tears. I’m too angry.”

Just three days after Timur Person was killed—and on the same day that a large march in downtown Manhattan demanded justice for Sean Bell – the NYPD killed again. This time, the victim was a 62-year-old Russian immigrant, Anatoly Dimitriev, who was shot twice in the chest as he tried to run down the fire escape of his Bronx apartment building. The cops claimed this time that Dimitriev had an ax that he refused to drop. Neighbors said Dimitriev had a history of “mental problems,” but they didn’t consider him a danger to anyone.

And in the week before Timur Person was gunned down, the NYPD shot three other Black men on successive days.

On Dec. 6 cops shot Hasani Omari in the groin, claiming hehad pulled out a handgun during a foot chase. In typical fashion, a police spokesman said “preliminary information indicates that the shooting appears to be within police guidelines.”

On Dec. 7, police shot Richard Davenport in the arm, claiming that he had fired a gun at them as they were chasing him.

The next day the cops shot Wayne Bolton, hitting him below both his knees and claiming, once again, that it was a case of someone being armed. This time, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly himself issued an outrageous statement about the police shootings: “They sometimes come in spurts, they sometimes come in groups; that’s the way it is.” Then Kelly turned reality upside down: “I think it underscores the dangers that police officers face.”

Rising Storm of Outrage

This epidemic of police murder has touched off a rising storm of outrage. For the first time since 9/11, opposition to police brutality is being taken up in a big way by masses of people in the streets and by prominent figures, and affecting people of all strata.

On December 16, many thousands jammed the streets of Manhattan in a March for Justice. Speaking at a press conference in front of City Hall the day before the march, Rev. Calvin O. Butts III of Abyssinian Baptist in Harlem, the most prominent Black church in the city, said that some NYPD cops were “ignorant savages who continue to prey upon our people as if we have no respect by virtue of our humanity or citizenship.” And he declared, “For too long we have tried to make changes, only to be disrespected.”

But people’s boiling anger at the brutal police is coming out in other ways as well. Two days after Sean Bell was shot, there was this scene on 125th Street in Harlem, as recounted by someone who witnessed the incident: “I was walking home along 125th and dozens of cops were taking down this older Black man. Very quickly a huge crowd gathered, very angry, yelling stuff at the police who were super obnoxious and banging their sticks on the sidewalk in front of us, down at our feet, like some crazy baton demonstration, and trying to get us to leave. People started yelling ‘50 shots’ at the cops, and then one of them yelled back at us that the guy they were taking down was armed and that people in the neighborhood wanted the cops to come to deal with him. Some of us refused to disperse and there were more exchanges with the police. I’m not sure what happened to the man, who someone in the crowd said was, in his earlier days, a Black Panther.”

Protests continue. The October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation has called for a mass protest on Wednesday, Dec. 20 in Jamaica, Queens, near where Sean Bell was murdered and two friends wounded. Referring to the slew of police murders and brutality in New York and across the country, the Oct. 22 Coalition’s call for the protest emphasizes that these “do not represent just ‘a few bad apples’ or some isolated incidents. It’s a nationwide epidemic… THIS MUST STOP. And it’s only the people that can stop it—through massive, determined protest in the streets and other actions.”

And a Day of Outrage aiming to shut down Wall Street has been called for Dec. 21.

“Something Wrong with a System Where This Happens”

People are coming into political motion with different ideas. Some people argue, for example, Sean Bell would be alive today if the police used rubber bullets instead of live ammo, or that what’s needed is better training for the cops or some kind of community control over the cops patrolling the Black neighborhoods.

Nicholas Heyward is an active member of the Oct. 22 Coalition, whose 13-year-old son Nicholas Heyward Jr. was killed by the NYPD in 1994. Nicholas told Revolution last week that many people “don’t really understand what’s happening and need to wake up to it. They need to get clear that what these cops are doing is not what they’re not supposed to do, but is what they are supposed to do. They’re in our communities to ‘serve and protect’ all right, but it’s not to serve and protect us but the people who run this system for profit and power.”

“So if you grasp hold of that,” Nicholas continued, “you understand that things like rubber bullets rather than live ammo, or sitting down with the cops to try to get better relations, are just not going to happen. What does have to happen? It’s like I say in the flyer that Oct. 22 Coalition put out calling for mass protest on Dec. 20 and demanding justice for Sean Bell: ‘I have no faith in a system that has allowed the cops who murdered my son and so many others to escape prosecution.’”

Another anti-police brutality activist, Juanita Young, whose son Malcolm Ferguson was killed by the NYPD in 2001, said: “Just think. 41 shots fired at Amadou Diallo in 1999 and now 50 shots at Sean Bell. Nothing has changed, and since 9/11 it’s gotten worse and the cops have gotten more vicious. There’s been more than 135 police killings in the New York/New Jersey area alone since 9/11, and not a single cop has served any time. There’s something definitely wrong with a system where that’s happening. We’re not dealing with a few bad apples here, and keep in mind we only hear about the major cases. There’s all kinds of cases that go down that we never hear about in the media.”

There’s been an enforced silence about the reality that Juanita Young points to—that police brutality and murder have not only continued but intensified since 9/11. But now, widespread anger and mass protests are beginning to force some of the truth out into the open. Witness how the outrage following the Sean Bell murder has forced this issue onto the Larry King show on CNN, Nightline, and other major national media reaching millions.

The protests and resistance need to continue—so that more truth is forced out even more broadly about the real nature and actions of the police under this system. The protests in the street, as well as prominent people speaking out, give heart to those on the bottom most directly under the gun of the murderous police. They make clear that the people will not suffer in silence as the police brutalize and murder. And this resistance can—and must—affect people of various strata in society, opening their eyes to the reality of police brutality and moving them into political action on this question and other outrages of this system.

As Nicholas Heyward said, “The only way to stop police brutality is to expose the horrors of this system and build resistance against a system that continues to exonerate killer cops, regardless of how clear the evidence against them is.”

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond