Why is Brandon’s killer free?

July 22, 2013

Questions are swirling about the killing of a young Black man in Columbia, Mo.--and as Troy Balthazor and Shane Johnson report, the police don't have any answers.

IN THE wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his murderer, George Zimmerman, the police department in Columbia, Mo., seems intent on following in the steps of their Sanford, Fla., counterparts.

At a time when many feel that an inherently racist system has declared open season on young Black men, Brandon Coleman was murdered in Columbia--and police and city leaders have offered little in the way of assistance, both at the scene of the crime and in the aftermath of the killing.

Brandon Coleman was a 25 year-old employee of the University of Missouri Athletic Department, who was shot three times in the early morning hours of May 19. The murder allegedly stemmed from an argument prior to the confrontation.

As Coleman lay wounded, officers reportedly chose not to administer medical care and, as a result, Coleman went without treatment for 30 minutes. The shooting happened only four blocks from Boone Hospital, yet when ambulances arrived, Coleman was taken to University Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Brandon's mother, Winona Coleman-Broadus
Brandon's mother, Winona Coleman-Broadus

Neighbors near the shooting reportedly tried calling 911 for nearly 25 minutes without reaching a dispatcher. It took police 11 hours to notify Coleman's family, claiming they couldn't find the family's contact information, though witnesses indicated that the information would have been easy to obtain. Officers involved reportedly stated that they could not find any contact information because Coleman "had not had any trouble and wasn't listed in the [criminal justice] system."

At the time of this writing, no one has been charged with the murder. The identity of the shooter is known by police, but he was never taken into custody. Missouri, like Florida, is a "Stand Your Ground" state.

Police have "interviewed" several witnesses, but they indicate that they are done with the questioning and have chosen not to provide any explanation as to why a man was shot three times and no one has been charged with a crime. Investigators "believe that they have all persons involved in the disturbance/shooting," and that no further suspects or leads are being pursued.

What you can do

Join the "Justice for Brandon" march on August 3 at noon. Meet at the Second Missionary Baptist Church at 4th Avenue and Broadway. E-mail [email protected] for information.

The details of the murder are still sketchy; the incident report available to the public is mostly censored and contains a callously vague two-line description of the killing.

Unconfirmed reports indicate the shooter may have been a felon and, as such, would not be allowed by the state of Missouri to carry a weapon. According to an anonymous source, the person that allegedly shot Brandon Coleman is white--underscoring the racist disparities of police response when a Black male is killed.

In an interview with KRCG news, Winona Coleman-Broadus, Brandon's mother, stated, "My son was treated like an animal, he was shot like an animal...I hate playing the race card because I'd like to think that my tax dollars support an honest, upstanding law enforcement agency, but I don't think in this case my son was treated fairly."

COLUMBIA IS a town of 110,000, 11.3 percent of whom are Black. Racial profiling data collected by the state of Missouri in 2012 indicated that one out of every five traffic stops made by the Columbia Police Department (CPD) are of Black drivers. While representing only 10 percent of eligible drivers, 22 percent of the drivers pulled over are Black.

The CPD has a notorious track record of racial profiling and aggressiveness when dealing with the Black community. After asking taxpayers to fund the purchase of a military style armored vehicle, racially insulting posts were discovered on the CPD Facebook account, including one stating "it would be welcomed in the hood if it was a Mercedes 6X16."

In 2010, a terrifying YouTube video showed the CPD conducting a SWAT team drug raid on a house in which a 7-year-old child was present, using an automatic weapon to shoot two of the family's dogs, killing one.

The raid--which resembled a U.S. military raid in Iraq or Afghanistan--was based on a rumor that the house was a marijuana "stash" house. In the raid, the CPD found a small amount of marijuana--but the charge was pled down to "possession of paraphernalia."

What does this mean for anti-racists in the heartland? History has proven (most recently in the case of Trayvon Martin's murder) that unless individuals and communities organize and put pressure on law enforcement and community leaders to bring Coleman's killer to justice, or show a good faith effort to explain to this fractured community why not, they will continue to do nothing.

As Mary Ratliffe, president of the Columbia chapter of the NAACP stated, "We are demanding an arrest. No justice, no peace."

The NAACP chpater has called for a "Justice for Brandon" march on August 3 at noon, starting at the Second Missionary Baptist Church at 4th Avenue and Broadway, and ending at the Boone County Courthouse.

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