Friday, July 27, 2012

Craig Heard Deserves Better

By Davy V.

Craig Heard deserved better.

In 2002, Craig was only 14 years old when he, as many teenagers do, was hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Individuals whom he thought were his friends, but in reality were not.

You see, friends don't get friends in trouble. Friends don't do things that put their friends lives at risk. And that's exactly what Craig Heard's "so called" friends did.

They stole a car and somehow young Craig Heard ended up behind the wheel of that stolen car, joyriding through Rochester's Park Ave. neighborhood on June 10, 2002.

Despite Craig Heard being spotted several times by Rochester Police officers, they never pulled him over. Instead, they followed him, then let him go. A short time later, RPD cops again spotted him and again they didn't pull him over. It was almost as if the Rochester Police officers were "stalking" him, like they were "setting him up."

Then, at one point, RPD officers followed Craig Heard as he turned onto Girton Place, a small Dead end off Park Ave.

There, they cornered Craig, an unarmed, scared, young African-American Honor Roll student who had made some mistakes, mainly not picking and choosing his friends carefully.

Minutes later, Rochester Police officers Serge Savitcheff and Hector Padgham shot Craig Heard twice in the head, killing him instantly.

The officers claimed that Craig Heard drove the car at them, and that they didn't have time to move out of the way. But they obviously had time to get in their stance, aim and shoot a young man in the head. Twice.

Craig Heard deserved better.

He deserved better than to be executed like he was.

He deserved better than to have Rochester, NY Mayor Bill Johnson, and then RPD Chief Robert Duffy calling the shooting justified, while his body still lay slumped over the car's steering wheel, and before the investigation into the shooting had even begun.

He deserved better than to have Rochester's WHAM 1180 Radio Show host Bob Lonsberry mock his death.

Craig Heard deserved better.

I produced a short film, "R.P.D.: Badges of DISHONOR, CORRUPTION and MURDER!" in which I gave Craig Heard's mother, Tammy Westbrook, an opportunity to express her feelings over the tragic loss of her son.

And she did.

Craig's mom cried as she talked about her son, while holding his sweatshirt. She talked about what a great kid he was. About how he would make his little brother breakfast, and how his little brother had no idea that he would never see his big brother again.

As a filmmaker exposing incidents in which innocent people have been killed by police, my goal is to give the families some closure by giving them a platform on which to express their pain, something mainstream media, with their sensationilism and cutting and editing stories, don't do.

I did that with Craig Heard's mom.

I gave her that.

When some in the community, including Lonsberry blamed her for her son's death and called her a bad mom, I went to bat for her.

I defended her.

Which is why I was very saddened to learn that more than 10 years after his death, Craig Heard still doesn't have a gravestone at his grave in Rochester's Mount Hope Cemetery.

The City of Rochester paid Tammy Westbrook $ 350,000 to settle her wrongful death lawsuit against the City and the Rochester, NY Police department, and Tammy Westbrook couldn't spend a few hundred dollars to get her son a gravestone.

If it wasn't for a small weathered, faded, plastic marker that funeral homes temporarily use to mark a grave after a burial, and which has somehow lasted 10 years, one would not even know that Craig Heard's grave was there.

Craig Heard deserved better.

He deserved better friends. Not a bunch of individuals he thought were his friends, who ultimately influenced him into driving that stolen car, and as a result, started the chain of events which led to his death.

Craig Heard deserved better.

He deserved better than to be called an "animal" and a "wolf" by Bob Lonsberry.

He deserved better than to be shot in the head by trigger happy Rochester, NY cops.

Cops who were cleared and never charged with killing an unarmed young man.

And Craig Heard deserves better than to be laying in an unmarked grave for the past 10 years, while his mother collected $ 350,000 for his death.

Craig Heard deserves better.