Subject: [SocialistWorker.org] The NYPD kills again
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Comment: Gina Sartori
======== THE NYPD KILLS AGAIN ================================================
Gina Sartori reports on the latest New York police murder of an unarmed
June 21, 2012
TENSIONS ARE running high in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn after NYPD
narcotics detective Phillip Atkins shot and killed an unarmed woman,
23-year-old Shantel Davis, on June 14.
Atkins and his partner say they spotted Davis and followed her after she
allegedly drove a stolen car erratically through red lights. Davis crashed
her vehicle into a parked mini-van.
According to witnesses, Atkins arrived at the scene and attempted to drag
Davis out of the passenger side of the vehicle with his gun drawn. Trapped in
the car by an airbag and fearing for her life, Davis cried out, "Don't shoot
me! Please don't shoot me!" Seconds later, Atkins fired his gun into her
chest at point-blank range. The officers then pulled her out of the car--and
attempted to handcuff her as she lay in a pool of her own blood in the middle
of the intersection.
As shocked onlookers surrounded the scene, they began shouting, "Murderer!
Murderer!" Atkins and his partner proceeded to collect video surveillance
tapes and cameras from all of the businesses surrounding the intersection.
Garth Thomas Messiah, an eyewitness to the incident, described what he saw:
>Two police officers approached a young 23-year-old woman, and murdered and
>slaughtered our sister in cold blood. And the cover-up is that it's an
>accident. It wasn't an accident. They were trailing her and following her.
>They got dirt on this woman. They cornered her right there, and the car
>crashed into the post. The airbags were deployed. There's no way that she
>could run or get away. There were no weapons in the car--no gun, no nothing.
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IN THE days after the killing, the mainstream media slandered Shantel,
implying that her criminal record was justification for her killing. Davis
was due in court the next day on charges of attempted murder and kidnapping.
But one member of the community said what many have repeated in the days
since: "People around here don't really care to know her criminal history
because of what they saw. We saw her being murdered here."
There are also questions about the allegation that Davis was driving a stolen
car--other accounts say the vehicle was borrowed from someone Shantel knew.
In fact, the car Shantel used to own was recently seized by the NYPD and put
up for sale on the department's sales lot. According to the /Wall Street
Journal/, hours before Shantel was killed, the /Wall Street Journal/
reported, Shantel was online looking up a GED class to enroll in. Her friend
explained, "She was trying to change."
In contrast to the smear campaign about Shantel Davis, the media failed
initially to report that the officer, Phillip Atkins, has a reputation for
aggressive violent behavior in the East Flatbush area of Brooklyn. When word
spread about Shantel's death, everyone seemed to know who Atkins was--since
he was known for terrorizing the same streets Shantel died on.
Atkins, who is recently returning from an official suspension, has his own
record of "priors." He has had six federal civil rights lawsuits filed
against him and numerous complaints of misconduct registered with the
Civilian Review Board. In his 12 years on the force, the majority of charges
against him were for illegal arrests, using excessive force and falsification
of evidence. He has cost the city $224,000 so far to settle just four of the
cases against him. Among the lawsuits against Atkins:
-- In 2003, Vincent Burgesses filed suit against Atkins after Atkins struck
Burgesses with his walkie-talkie and arrested him without cause. Two years
later, Burgesses was awarded $50,000 in damages from the city.
-- In 2007, Atkins illegally arrested and charged 39-year-old Margaret
Ferguson with marijuana possession. Ferguson lost her job--although the
charges were eventually dropped, the damage had already been done.
-- In 2008, a local business owner was awarded $15,000 after suing Atkins for
illegally searching his car and business.
-- In 2009, Atkins was sued for strip-searching a woman he had arrested for
-- In July 2010, Atkins arrested a stay-at-home father for doing nothing more
then riding his bicycle. After being handcuffed tightly enough to cause
severe bruising, the man, too, was strip-searched, held for 24 hours, and
denied food and water. The city settled the suit for $20,000.
As Chevon Messiah, an East Flatbush community member and witness to the
>We call him Bad boy Atkins. He harasses people around here. His
>stop-and-frisk is not your typical stop-and-frisk. His stop-and-frisk is at
>gunpoint. He's quick to draw his gun. He threatens a lot of people around
>here--people are scared of him. When you see Atkins come out the car, go in
>your house, you might get shot.
But of course, fellow police are backing Atkins to the hilt. Michael
Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, declared,
"Based on the facts and circumstances, I am confident our detective's actions
were appropriate and justified." This from the same man who said that the
charges filed against the officers who killed Sean Bell in a hail of 50
bullets in 2006 were "disgraceful, excessive, unprecedented."
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LESS THAN 48 hours after Shantel was gunned down, family members, local
activists, churches and community members called a vigil and march to the
67th Precinct where Detective Atkins is still on duty. On June 16, some 150
people came out to rally and march against this injustice.
The event began with a press conference. Speakers included progressive City
Council member Jumaane Williams, representatives of Rev. Al Sharpton's
National Action Network, and members of the clergy. The parents of Ramarley
Graham and Tamon Robinson, two families whose sons were also murdered by the
NYPD this year, joined the parents of Shantel Davis.
A representative of the National Action Network spoke about the hypocrisy
that the police used to justify their actions: "You want us to be responsible
for our actions. Well doggone it, you have to be held accountable for yours.
We are not going to be quiet. We are not going to roll over. There is a hedge
of protection around this family."
Jumaane Williams demanded that Bloomberg come down and address the community
to begin a conversation about how to address the racist practices of the
NYPD. "They ask that we give the NYPD the benefit of the doubt," Williams
said. "There are communities that can do that. It is hard in my community to
give the NYPD the benefit of the doubt. My community elected me to tell the
truth. I challenge the mayor and the commissioner to come speak to the
community. But if you won't come speak to us, we'll come speak to you."
Williams went on to tell the press that he intends to hold a rally every
Saturday at the intersection where Shantel was killed until Bloomberg
Williams also focused on the racism that permeates the NYPD: "If we took the
same exact background, actions, same car, same history and changed the
complexion of their skin, moved it to the Upper West Side, would the result
have been the same? Yes, 99.9 percent of the time, the answer is the result
As each speaker spoke about Davis' case, it became clear that the story of
Ramarley Graham, the story of Tamon Robinson and now the story of Shantel
Davis are connected. The role of the NYPD is the same in every Black and
brown neighborhood of New York City--to intimidate, terrorize and kill with
But the vigil in Flatbush and the next day's 15,000-strong march against
stop-and-frisk, initiated by the NAACP, show that such blatant injustice is
boiling over into resistance.
As Chevon Messiah, who organized the Saturday vigil, said:
>We are not going to be passive about this. We are going to make sure that
>something comes out of this, and we're not stopping here. We are going to
>continue fighting against what they have done in the neighborhood--treating
>us like animals. We are not animals. We are humans.
Blair Ellis contributed to this article.
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