The New York City Police Department has been responsible for the deaths of many black men. The city has no problem dishing out million-dollar settlements for these crimes, but when it comes to actually persecuting the officers who used blatant force or overall poor judgment, justice is rarely served. It’s not only young Black men who are in danger; the NYPD has no problem targeting elderly blacks as well.
On a cold January day in 2011, the police stopped my parents to give my mother a summons for allegedly taking off her seat belt while my father was pulling up to a corner. She realized she had left her wallet at home by mistake because she was in a hurry out of the door that day to pick up her medication from the pharmacy. The NYPD officers refused to let her grab her prescription from the pharmacy they were all in front of that day so she could show them her name and address. They also refused to allow my father to drive home and get her ID and would not drive them or follow them to our home so they could get the wallet and verify her identity. So without any other options, my father walked. A blizzard had recently passed, so the ground was covered with snow and ice. While he was gone, a family friend who was passing by saw the police standing with my mother, who was 71 at the time, and became alarmed. He found out what was going on and went into the pharmacy to get my mother’s prescription. After the cops saw her name and address, they handed over the summons which they already had prepared and took off. Going to get my father, who was walking in the freezing cold, was not a thought. My mother was unable to drive because she had already taken her Lyrica, which is a controlled substance, so she sat there alone in the car and waited for my father to return. When he returned with the wallet, he realized his walk was done for nothing. On the drive home, he died behind the wheel from a massive heart attack in front of my mother.
At that time I was a senior at Norfolk State University. I was crushed when I found out the news. I was four months away from graduating with my bachelor’s degree and my father would not be there to watch me walk across the stage. And it was the NYPD’s fault.
After his death, my mother not only went through depression but was also traumatized by her husband of 52 years dying in front of her. As their truck sat in the middle of the street that day, she had to wave down someone to help. That isn’t easy for a 71-year-old with osteoporosis and heart problems among other health issues.
Five years later, the cops that were involved in my father’s death are still on the streets harassing people. This past March, a Facebook friend shared a series of posts from a young man detailing how an NYPD officer was harassing him about his legally-tinted windows on his car. I was disgusted when I saw it was one of the same police officers who caused my dad’s death.
It’s been four and a half years since we filed a lawsuit and nothing has happened. The other high-profile cases against NYPD officers had major media attention, which helped speed up their cases. There were a few news stories that ran in major newspapers and we appeared on the news, but overall the case has been swept under the rug. Those officers didn’t shoot my father, but they put him in a situation that led to his death. They could have let my father drive to get the ID while my mother sat with them and waited. They could’ve went into the pharmacy to get my mother’s medication themselves. He wasn’t the one being issued the summons, so why couldn’t he move his truck? Why couldn’t he go into the pharmacy? Why did he have to walk?
Watching the officers that killed Eric Garner not get indicted was infuriating and I fear that the same thing will happen in my father’s case. However, ex-officer Peter Liang was fired after his conviction of killing Akai Gurley. Though he was sentenced to only probation and community service, he is not on the force anymore, which would be an ideal outcome in my father’s case. A hefty settlement is meaningless when those cops can continue to terrorize people of color and kill them with their guns, merciless tactics and poor judgment. I pray that the case concerning my 72-year-old father’s death will be one of few where justice is actually served.