Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Think Twice Before Calling Rochester Police


When will people finally realize that calling Rochester Police for assistance, simply put, is asking for more trouble. On July 10, 2005, 13 year old LaShedica Mason was suicidal, when she locked herself up in the bathroom of her home on St. Jacob Street in the city. Her relatives called 911 for assistance. Minutes later, Rochester Police officer Mark Simmons entered the home and as soon as he saw Mason holding a knife, he shot the 13 year old girl three times, including once in her abdomen. As a result of her injuries, LaShedica's gall bladder, as well as several feet of her intestines had to be removed during surgery.

Ironically, just days before the shooting, acting Rochester Police Chief Cedric Alexander had announced the creation of the Rochester Police Department's Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team (EDPRT) a team specially trained to deal with despondent, suicidal, and emotionally unstable individuals. In fact, the team was developed, specifically for people just like LaShedica. So why then, was a suicidal teen shot multiple times by police who were called by her family to help her? Where was this crisis intervention team who were trained to deal with situations like this? Nowhere to be found. They were never deployed.

On October 13, 2011, Randy Book, a 25 year old, white trigger happy R.P.D. cop shot and killed 43 year old Hayden Blackman, a family man from Barbados, in front of his wife and stepchildren. Police were called to the family's home on Columbia Avenue for a domestic disturbance. Blackman's 16 year old stepson had punched his stepfather in the face. Once there, they observed that Blackman was holding a knife in his hand. Officer Book ordered Blackman to drop the knife, but before Blackman was even able to comply with the order, Book opened fire, shooting him a total of five times and hitting him three. Officer Book never gave Blackman a chance to drop the knife.

Book knew exactly what he wanted to do. He never considered any other action, but to shoot. And not just to shoot, but shoot to kill. He never even gave any thought to shooting Blackman in the arm, or the leg in order to disable him. No, Book shot at what police refer to as "center mass". It is that part of the body just below the neck and above the waist. Police know that by shooting at this area of the body, the shots will be fatal, and by shooting Hayden Blackman five times and hitting him three times, R.P.D. cop Randy Book's intentions were clear: Shoot to kill.

Throughout the United States, police are trained to shoot to kill. In fact, just last year, the N.Y.P.D. was furious at the New York State Legislators' proposal of the "minimum force" bill which surfaced in the State Assembly, seeking to amend the State's penal codes' "justification" clause that allows a police officer the right to kill. The bill, drafted in the wake of the N.Y.P.D.'s exceution of Sean Bell, an unarmed African-American newlywed who was killed when plainclothes N.Y.P.D. officers fired more than 50 rounds at him and his friends as he exited a nightclub, would have forced officers to use their weapons "with intent to stop, rather than kill" a suspect. They would be mandated to "shoot a suspect in the arm or the leg". Under the present code, police are trained to shoot at the center of the target (center mass) and continue to fire their weapon until the "threat" has been stopped.

The Rochester Police Department has a long history of hiring trigger happy cops. In 2001 21 year old Vandy Davis, an unarmed Jamaican father of three young children was killed by Rochester Police officer David Gebhardt as he sat on a couch at a Joseph Avenue apartment. Gebhardt claimed he tripped on an extension cord causing him to discharge his shotgun, striking Davis in the chest. However, any firearms expert will tell you that you should never have your finger on the trigger of a firearm unless you intend to shoot. Had Gebhardt not had his finger on the trigger, Vandy Davis would be alive today. And in 2002 Craig Heard, a 14 year old unarmed African-American Honor Roll student was shot twice in the head and executed by Rochester Police officers Serge Savitcheff and Hector Padgham.

When asked why Book didn't use a taser on Blackman, Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard said "Not all of our officers carry a taser". So, in a city where former Mayor William Johnson's failed fast ferry cost taxpayers millions of dollars that we are still paying on, and where there are red light cameras as well as Rochester Police surveillance cameras throughout the city, there isn't enough money to equip all Rochester Police officers with tasers? Of course, there is no guarantee that Book would have used a taser if he had one, I mean shooting a man a total of five times is a strong indicator of Book's intentions from the time he got to the home. He couldn't wait to kill.

Perhaps, Hayden Blackman's widow, Roxanne Williams Blackman put it best when she said "My husband is from Barbados so he has dreads so naturally police always think any Black American with dreads, West Indian, they're not just straight and narrow, so he probably felt intimidated by that... But he (officer Book) didn't have to go to that extreme. Five shots, three of them hit him. It wasn't necessary."

So if you are an African-American or Latino, next time you think of calling Rochester Police for assistance, think twice. It could be your loved one who is murdered right in front of you by a trigger happy R.P.D. cop like Randy Book.

Something tells me had that been a white man holding that knife, he'd be alive right now, recovering from a gunshot wound to the leg.

Take Care,

Davy V.

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