“I See Dead People!”

I’ve been blogging for almost 15 months, beginning on my birthday, March 30, 2016. Because my website host keeps all kinds of statistics, I know I’ve made 317 posts (excluding this one). I’ve written 215 about politics. Three of my granddaughters have worked their way into print.

I’ve written about education, done a few film reviews, given my thoughts on events of social relevance and often wrote about systemic injustice. I’ve begun a monthly series on “Shadow Warriors” to place a spotlight on the good works of others who have yet to receive national recognition. Generally something inspires a thought and it churns around in my head for a brief period until I sit at my computer and write the story.

I generally include multiple photos with my stories to give my words more impact. I often search the Internet and save the photo’s I use to my computer before uploading them to my blog posts. For whatever reason that someone more tech savvy than I could easily correct. The images I save often become a rotating screensaver, popping up after my screen has been idle for a period.

During the day, I rarely pay attention to the pictures. I check my laptop often enough that the screensaver isn’t activated that much and when it is I barely notice. It’s at night that I might be confronted with an image of someone I’ve written about. All too often someone unjustly killed. All too often shot by police under various circumstances. One was a child asleep on a couch, another playing with a toy in a park, several for being BWD (Black while driving). The reasons varied greatly, the one thing in common was the apparent fear for their lives police officers had when confronting these people with no weapons. One did have a weapon which he had a legal right to own. He politely informed the officer he had one and within seconds was shot dead. When I pass my computer in the night… I see dead people.

The first person I wrote about that was taken from us far too soon was Tanya Skeen. “Miss Tanya” was not a victim of police violence but was shot while standing in her own kitchen, an innocent bystander during a shootout. Another bystander, Gino Nicolas, was killed nearby as well. There was great outrage in the community and cooperation with law enforcement.  Like everyone else in the community, I was grateful when the police caught the killers who are nearing trial. Tanya Skeen used to babysit one of those granddaughters I’ve written about. Tanya was always cheerful with an infectious smile. My granddaughter learned what going to heaven is.

Tanya Skeen

Photo: twitter.com

July 2016 brought us the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The police officer who shot Castile had just been told, “Sir, I do have to tell you I do have a firearm on me.” Seconds later the officer shot him four times, in “fear for his life.” He was found not guilty. No justice, no justice, never any justice.

I didn’t write about Tamir Rice at the time of his death but did mention him, including a picture in a piece about Colin Kaepernick in August. The Devil was busy last August which gave us the deaths of Tyree King who allegedly had a BB gun. The three bullets that struck him were in the back. Terence Crutcher was killed outside his car, with his hands up. Keith Lamont Scott in North Carolina was waiting for his son to get out of school. Alfred Olango’s sister called 911 to get help for her brother with mental health issues. He was unarmed but still ended up dead. All were killed by police… in fear of their lives.

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Photo: newschannel5.com

On November 21, 2016. 15-year-old James Means was killed, not by a policeman but by 62-year-old William Pullman who allegedly had been bumped into. Pullman had no remorse. He said, “The way I look at it, that’s another piece of trash off the streets.” After shooting the teenager twice in the stomach, Pullman went home and had dinner. He later hung out at a friend’s home. When he was later arrested he lamented, “I’m going to lose my job and everything!”

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Photo:twitter.com

I wasn’t writing only about depressing murders at that time. Of course, there was the equally depressing election of Donald Trump and his bringing with him Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and more. I wrote about my daughter-in-law’s attempts to  kill me, with repeated overdoses of cookies. My grandmother, old friends and my high school basketball coach were highlighted in stories. Somehow their pictures didn’t make it into my screensaver rotation.

Being an ex-NFL football player didn’t keep Joe McKnight from being killed in New Orleans. His killer, 54-year old Ronald Glasser who was white, was initially released without charges. The Sheriff, also white was disturbed that, “Everybody wants to make this about race. It’s not about race!”

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Photo: nydailynews.com

Around the same time in South Carolina. The trial of police officer Michael Slager ended in a mistrial for the fatal shooting of Walter Scott. Slager was on video tape shooting the unarmed Scott in the back while running away from him. No justice, no justice, never any justice.

I knew Bernard Bailey. He was a year behind me in college. He was at Tennessee State University while I was a mile down the road at Fisk University. We played basketball in pick-up games. Despite the fact I was paired against him and he played for a rival school, I liked him. We could have become friends. He had been dead 6 years before I even heard about it, killed by the police chief in his hometown in South Carolina. His killer Richard Combs, was tried twice. Each ended in a hung jury. He did lose his job so there’s that. Bernard Bailey lost his life. No justice… you know the rest.

Bernard Bailey

Photo: twitter.com

Somewhere along the line I also wrote about Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin and others. I confess that I now mix up the details of  individual deaths as there are so many. An officer in Cincinnati was acquitted today in the death of an unarmed black motorist. The two things these deaths have in common are people “in fear for their lives” that had to kill them and of course no justice!

It is not lost on me while I catch an unplanned glimpse of someone who needed not die. I was just as likely to see a picture of Trump or Sessions whose policies are likely to greatly increase my gallery rather than slow the pace. They are attempting to undermine the consent decrees entered into by police forces and their communities and promised almost no Federal oversight of police activities. While tempted to delete all the photos so as to no longer be caught unaware. I elect to keep the reminder. I know the work is not done as long as we can be shot and killed with impunity and the guaranteed result is no justice. This post is not anti-police although many of those I see were killed needlessly by them. It is anti  people who have no business carrying a gun shooting my people and walking away free. Until there is an environment where the mere statement of being in fear despite all evidence to the contrary is no longer sufficient to escape justice. I’ll still see dead people.

Featured Photo: vox.com

Yet Another Name, 15-Year-Old Jordan Edwards

Because I feel like I’ve written this story too many times. I just can’t gather myself to write about the shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. The police initially claimed the car he was in was “backing aggressively” towards the officer. The 6-year veteran of the force was as always, “in fear for his life.” Video footage showed he lied and in fact the car he shot into was moving away from him. The unnamed officer has been placed on administrative leave with pay (vacation).

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Photo: twitter.com

I looked back to see that I’d written about  Bernard Bailey who I’d played basketball against and went to Fisk rival Tennessee State University.

I wrote about  Walter Scott,  Joe McKnight,  Alfred Olango,  Tyre King, Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott. I even wrote about What if it was me!

I’ll leave it to others to tell the story of Jordan Edwards. I’m just a little weary right now but I’ll get back up and take on the next one. Promise!

Featured photo: twitter.com

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?