In the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his murderer, George Zimmerman, the police department in Columbia, Missouri, seems intent on following in the steps of their Sanford, Florida 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, at the scene of the crime or in the aftermath of the killing.
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. 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.
Neighbours 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. They said they could not find the family's contact information, though witnesses indicated the information would have been easy to get.
Officers involved reportedly said 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 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. They 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.
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. An anonymous source said the person that allegedly shot 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, said: “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% of whom are Black. Racial profiling data collected by the state of Missouri last year indicated that one out of every five drivers stopped made by the Columbia Police Department (CPD) are Black. While representing only 10% of eligible drivers, 22% 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 armoured vehicle, racially insulting posts were discovered on the CPD Facebook account. One said “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 seven-year-old child was present, using an automatic weapon to shoot two of the family's dogs, killing one.
The raid — which resembled a US military raid in Iraq or Afghanistan — was based on a rumour 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? History has proven (most recently in the case of Martin's murder) that unless individuals and communities organise 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, said: “We are demanding an arrest. No justice, no peace.”
As a result, the NAACP chapter has called for a “Justice for Brandon” march on August 3.
[Reprinted from Socialist Worker.]