When We Said Their Names… I Missed One

Bernard Bailey is the 7th leading all time scorer in the history of Tennessee State University (TSU) basketball. I recognize five of the six players ahead of him. Some by reputation, others I had the chance to know and play with or against. The leading scorer, Dick Barnett played 12 seasons in the NBA. Nine with the New York Knicks. The last time the Knicks won an NBA Championship. Dick Barnett with his “fall back baby” jump shot was there.

Ted “Hound” McClain played several years with the NBA and ABA before the merger. He was a close friend of my Fisk University assistant basketball coach Kindell Stephens. I knew Ted when he was with the ABA Kentucky Colonels. When he was in Nashville, he often stopped by Fisk and sometimes participated in pick-up games during the off season.

Leonard “Truck” Robinson, 3rd on the list, was a senior at TSU when I was a freshman at Fisk. I’d seen him play in the Vanderbilt Invitational Tournament but never played against him until we met in the NCAA Division II Regional Semi-finals. The game was legendary in local circles. Although both Fisk and TSU both had excellent teams and were a mile apart on Jefferson St. The teams almost never played each other. It’s one of those games that people “remember being there.” Far more than the 5,400 people that could actually fit in Kean’s Little Garden where TSU hosted the game. Although I played a pivotal role in our victory the night before against James Madison. Against TSU, despite hearing from people that I “dropped 20-30 points” against Truck Robinson. I had a more modest 7 points and 3 rebounds. Fisk won a close game where we pulled away at the end, 65-54. Truck Robinson who was averaging 25 points scored 15 points with 14 rebounds.  Fortunately, Fisk had three players score in double figures (Hastings, Gold, and Lee), and victory was ours.

The following year, the teams did not meet. Truck Robinson was replaced at center by heavily recruited Bernard Bailey from South Carolina. Because I typically read the sports pages daily (looking for my own name). I was aware of Bailey’s success. It was the following summer when a few Fisk players drove the mile to the TSU gym to participate in some pick-up games. We walked in the gym with a little swagger, our last visit ending in a major victory. Teams were chosen, I remember being guarded by Forward Joe Webb during the first game but by the second game I was matched up with my physical counterpart, Center Bernard Bailey.

I was at the time 6’6″ and about 225 lbs. Bailey I remember as being 6’7″ and a little stockier. Basketball is a physical game and there was a lot of contact. After a hour or so of bumping, shoving, and elbowing. I found that Bernard was strong, assertive on the basketball court, and extremely likeable. During his TSU career he amassed 1,700 points, was in the top ten all-time in several offensive categories and rebounding. It was the only time I ever met Bernard Bailey but I’ll always remember him. Had we spent more time together we would have been friends. I learned today that Bernard Bailey is dead.

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Bernard was born in small Eutawville, SC., population 344. He was a lifelong member of the Springfield Missionary Baptist Church. It was there his final services were held and he was buried in the church cemetery. He didn’t die within the past few days. It was on May 2, 2011 that Bernard, unarmed, was killed by the Eutawville Police Chief, Richard Combs.

When you think of Eutawville… think of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry. Their police force is a bit larger than that of Andy and Barney. They have two police dogs, Max and Rocky. I imagine in a town of 344 most people know each other. The incident that led to his death started a few days earlier when his daughter Briana was stopped by Richard Combs for a tag light violation. Briana called her father to the scene and Combs and Bailey got into an argument. It is reported that while not cursing, Bailey was loud and “disrespectful.” Apparently Combs didn’t handle disrespect very well. Combs returned to his office and had an “obstruction of justice warrant” drawn up against Bailey which he didn’t immediately serve and of which Bernard was unaware.

On May 2, 2011, Bernard Bailey went to the courthouse to talk to Combs about the initial citation when Combs tried to arrest him on the warrant. Bailey said, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” and left. Bailey got into his truck as Combs chased him. Combs entered the still open door as Bailey began backing out of the parking lot. Combs shot him three times. Twice in the chest and once in the shoulder.

Combs was tried twice for murder, each resulting in a hung jury and a mistrial. He claimed self-defense under South Carolina’s, “Stand Your Ground Law.” Instead of pursuing a third trial. Combs plead guilty to a misconduct change and was sentenced to ten years in prison which was reduced to five years of probation and one year of house arrest. He never spent one night in jail. The City of Eutawville settled separately with the family for $400,000 in a wrongful death suit. Combs lost his position with the police force. Bernard Bailey lost his life.

When names were being said of Black unarmed victims killed by police officers. I missed Bernard Bailey’s at the time. I’m angry about “Stand Your Ground” which always seems selective in nature. I’m annoyed at all the people claiming, “race wasn’t a factor,” when the whole disrespect motivation seems to be all about race. I’m saddened that someone who literally looked like me in size, skin tone and age is dead and received no justice. Most of all there’s a sense of loss. Of a friendship that could have been. A family’s loss of a husband and father. Of fairness and justice. This event was almost six years ago and I just found out. The pain is no less now than it would have been then. The cumulative grief from events like these is building. Where does it end?

When The Dead, Unarmed, Black Male Is Me!

When the Dead, Unarmed Black Male is me!

The one constant in the slew of killings by police of unarmed Black males is that we never heard their side of the story. We never heard that they never heard any warning while walking thru Wal-Mart with a toy gun or carrying a toy gun in their waistband. We never heard what caused a young man to engage in a struggle with an officer in a police car or what the man was thinking while walking down a Brooklyn stairway because the elevator was taking too long.

We hear of course about the enormous size and strength of the now dead victims. That they looked like demons and despite non-athletic builds had the strength of professional wrestlers. We hear of the officer’s fear for their lives as they approached these men (or boys) armed with pill bottles or toy guns or nothing and how they had no choice but to shoot. Their fear apparently extends to the dying bodies on the ground as they offer no medical attention while they bleed out. They stand around and keep their distance, in one case calling their PBA rep before calling in the shooting.

I fall in the demographic most likely to be killed one day so I want to make my statement now while I can because in the event it’s one day me on the ground, my talking will be done. I say I’m in the demographic because not only am I a Black male, I stand 6’6” and have what I’ll refer to as an athletic build although these days I’m looking more like a football lineman than the basketball player I once was. People that know me have referred to me as “Baby Huey” or a “gentle giant” or “still Bill”. I’ve been in two fights in my life and violence will truly be the last resort. So if you hear about how I viciously attacked someone in a rage please know that it wasn’t me.

While I don’t use drugs, make drug deals in cars, engage in strong armed robbery or threaten people by waving toy guns, I do engage in a dangerous activity… I walk. My walks take me around lakes and to parks and because I live in a city, thru residential neighborhoods not my own. I go different directions to change things up and one day I might be that strange Black man that obviously doesn’t belong whose only purpose must be criminal, looking for someplace to rob.

I once had a Weimaraner, a German hound bred to run all day hunting birds and we would walk several miles a day. He was a rescue dog and something in his past made him afraid of everything. Cats eventually refused to move and made him walk around. I would walk him mostly off his leash but as someone approached from the opposite direction I would leash him so as to give that person comfort, not for fear of what the dog would do. Now it is I who has to take the extra step not to instill fear in the strangers I meet.

The media, police statements and killers portraying themselves as victims all let us know of the size and strength of the slain men inferring that alone is reason for fear and to justify of course their execution. So when they report my size and strength, please remember me as Baby Huey.

Know that I didn’t have a gun in my possession nor do I own one. As a child my parents owned a gun they were certain that I didn’t know about. It was kept in their bedroom closet out of reach, unloaded with the bullets kept separately. This didn’t keep me from finding it, loading it and taking it into the basement and attempting to fire it. Fortunately it didn’t go off which probably saved my life. Whether the bullet ricocheted and hit me or I shot up the water heater and had to explain to my parents, death was a good possibility. What I learned was to never underestimate the resourcefulness of a child or later in life just how mad I could make a woman so I’ve never wanted a gun around.

Know that I’m very respectful, almost never curse and am fairly non-confrontational physically although rhetorically I give as good as I get. I’ve heard my demeanor on the basketball court is a little different, no doubt egged on by my youngest daughter who would scream out “bow ‘em Daddy” when I took her to my church league games. My basketball games are now over so any report of my violent and physical behavior will also be untrue.

When they scour my past to portray me as a thug (and therefore justify my death), know that Phi Beta Sigma isn’t a gang and that my initiation didn’t involve bullying and hazing. The current Attorney General was attacked for her membership in Delta Sigma Theta and she should be left alone on that account as well. One of the two fights I mentioned occurred in 6th grade on the Field Elementary School playground and the other was part of a group scuffle at Lane College when some members of the basketball team didn’t like getting beat. If video’s surface of either event please know that these were anomalies and not regular behavior. I didn’t start either one if that matters.

Know that I had a good life although I would have liked for it to have been longer. I have wonderful longtime friends and a great family. I’ll paraphrase something a friend said in quite another context. Whatever story they tell to justify my demise, “if it’s not on video or they didn’t put their hand on me when I was doing it… it wasn’t me!”

Featured Photo: Star Tribune

MISTRIAL??? The Walter Scott Murder

A single white juror is unwilling to find Michael Slager guilty of murdering a black man running from him. Walter Scott was shot several times in the back as shown in the photo. The judge has declared a recess in an attempt to break the impasse. Apparently there is no possible evidence sufficient to get justice. The other eleven jurors have passed a note asking for the lone holdout to be removed.

Another Unarmed Black Man: Joe McKnight

 

 

Another young man is gone. Shot to death at a New Orleans intersection. Initial reports suggest road rage led to the shooting. According to a witness statement the shooter fired once and said, “I told you not to f**k with me!” Then fired again. The man who was shot and killed was Joe McKnight. He was a local football hero having excelled in High School football. Played running back at USC. He ultimately played a few seasons in the NFL for the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs along with a season in the CFL. He was Black. And he was unarmed.

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The shooter was 54-year old Ronald Glasser. During a press conference by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand. He was asked if Glasser had a criminal record? Normand responded, “there was an incident over 10 year ago.” He didn’t go into further detail. He indicated his department was still researching whether Glasser had a concealed carry permit for his gun. He assured us Glasser was cooperating in every way. Glasser was released without charges. He’s white.

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Sheriff Normand assured everyone there’s no reason to think the situation was about race. “Everyone wants to make this about race. This is not about race!” He appealed to people (Black People) not to protest as there was no cause. He was asked about the applicability of “Stand Your Ground Laws?” He started to say it was a factor that had to be considered before deciding not to comment further as it might “taint other witness statements.”

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Sheriff Normand felt it important we all know that someone who helped raise Joe McKnight formerly worked in the Sheriff’s office which was I imagine supposed to assure us of a proper investigation. He indicated that the investigation was not yet complete. Gasser could still be charged and we shouldn’t worry because he was after all so cooperative. Other reports indicate Gasser was released after telling his version of events to police. McKnight didn’t tell his story… he’s dead.

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Of course it’s folly to suggest this isn’t about race. If a white unarmed local hero had been killed by a Black man who shot him, made a statement then shot him again while he laid on the ground. Is there any scenario where he walks away without being charged? Is there any explanation of a road rage incident where he gets out of his car with a gun and shoots the other driver. If he were Black wouldn’t we already be looking at his 10-year-old mug shots, listening to him being labeled a thug? Witness say McKnight was heard apologizing to Gasser before being shot. Until there is justice, there will be no peace!

Say One More Name: Alfred Olango

When Alfred Olango’s sister called 911 yesterday, she wanted to get him some help. She made sure to tell them he was “mentally ill. “I called three times for them to help me,” she said. “Nobody came; they said it’s not a priority.”

El Cajon, CA is about 15 miles Northeast of San Diego. It’s around 69% white and 6% black according to the last census. An unarmed black man is just as dead there as in Tulsa, OK or Cleveland, OH or North Charleston, SC. Witnesses are unsure if Alfred Olango was having a seizure or what the exact nature of his distress was? He was acting erratic and walking in traffic according to reports. They are certain he was shot multiple times. It’s reported that up to twenty police officers arrived on the scene before the ambulance finally arrived. His sister said he died on the scene. Other reports say he died later at a local hospital. All agree on his death.

Police say Alfred had his hands in his pockets and ultimately pulled something out of his pocket, assumed a “shooting stance” while pointing the object at the police. At least one witness say Alfred had his hands up. Another confirms portions of the police story. A woman voluntarily provided a cell phone video to the police. They released one still photo showing Mr. Olango pointing at an officer in a stance. There will be calls to release the rest of the video. We’ll see if transparency extends to all the evidence and not just a single frame supporting the police side? His sister said to police, “I just called for help, and you came and killed him.”

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The facts will sort themselves out. We know police knew when responding that it was a “5150 Call” and that the victim was demonstrating mental instability. The area has a Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) for just such occasions, they were not brought in. We know that Alfred Olango was unarmed. He’s now dead. He was 30.

Protesters in Charlotte have not yet put down their signs before we have another man dead across the country. Protests have begun along with calls for transparency. The cycle begins anew. Time for a change!

Where Is The Truth?

Tyre King, Terence Crutcher, Keith Lamont Scott; the one undeniable truth is that these black males are dead. Killed by police. After that we have opinions, and lies, where is the truth?

Tyre King, a 13-year-old boy was killed by police who say he had a “realistic” BB gun with a laser sight. To make their story more convincing they showed us a picture of a different gun. A different gun. Yes, the picture they showed us looked very much like a real gun. It had no orange tip, no laser sight. Why not take a picture of the actual BB gun? Did it differ from the picture they showed us? Police say he pulled the BB gun and pointed it at them, leaving them no choice but to shoot him. An autopsy was performed with no results released. An independent autopsy was ordered by the family which said, “more than likely he was running away.” All three shots hit him in the back. Where is the truth?

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Terence Crutcher had his hands up. Shot and killed by Officer Betty Shelby. Thru her lawyer, she said she shot when Terence was reaching into his vehicle. My view of the video and the reflections off the window indicate to me the window was up. A family attorney showed an enlarged photo showing the window rolled up making it impossible for Mr. Crutcher to have reached in. A “source” from within the Tulsa Police Department says the window was rolled down. Why is this even a lingering question? Surely there were hundreds of contemporary crime scene photos showing one way or the other. The Tulsa Police Dept. Could settle it all by making a statement with accompanying time stamped photos or videos. What is the truth? Thru her attorney, Shelby’s story has changed somewhat saying Terence Crutcher wore loose clothing and kept “reaching for his pockets which could contain a gun.” Where is the truth?

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Keith Lamont Scott, a father of seven was waiting for his son to come home from school. Several witnesses say he was unarmed, he didn’t own a gun, he was reading a book. The police say they recovered a gun. What was its history? Where was it purchased? Was it a throwdown? We know the officer who shot Mr. Scott was wearing plain clothes and wasn’t wearing a body camera. What of the other videos? Why not release them? Recent police statements now say they issued several warnings. The story keeps changing. Where is the truth?

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Part of the truth is that the initial police statements are almost always self-serving. And usually fact-free. They tell us to “wait until the investigation is complete,” and then selectively leak information to shape the narrative. Many times they don’t name the officers involved while they scurry to tarnish the victim’s name. In stories about protests in Charlotte, we hear about the number of injured police officers. There was no mention of the citizens harmed, estimated to be about the same number. Where is the truth? As I write this right now. Charlotte police wearing riot gear have fired tear gas into crowds. There are reports of bottles being thrown and broken windows. There is a report of a new shooting with life-threatening injuries. No other information is available. Where is the truth?

Another (Yes Another) Black Man Killed By Police

I can’t write this story today… maybe tomorrow, maybe never. Another unarmed black man was slain by police in University City, NC a suburb of Charlotte. He was sitting in his car reading while waiting for his son to be dropped off after school. His name has not yet been released.

Police were looking for someone with outstanding warrants, this was not the man. Did I mention he was disabled?

Maybe tomorrow I’ll report that police claimed, “He posed an imminent deadly threat to the officers.” An eyewitness claimed he was tased and then shot at least three times.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll know the name of the book he was reading? Or the name of the victim? Did I mention he was disabled?

Maybe tomorrow the officers involved will be named but don’t bet on that. Maybe tomorrow I’ll watch the whole Livestream video recorded by his daughter. She learned her father was dead during the course of the recording.

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Maybe tomorrow there won’t be news of another black man killed by police? Maybe?

This post has been edited to include that police say the man was armed and that a gun was recovered at the scene. The family insists he did not own a gun and was reading a book. Police acknowledged te victim was not the man they were searching for but tried to insinuate a possible connection. Assuming a gun was actually recovered. I will be very interested in knowing how it got there? Surely the police wouldn’t place a throw down gun at the scene to cover up their mistake? To be continued…