By Cheryl Brown
Last week the U.S. Attorney Generals office, under President George Bush, ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the four White officers who killed Tyisha Miller, a Black teenager who was fatally shot in Riverside on December 28, 1998 while in need of medical attention.
The ruling means the federal government will not prosecute the officers and the Justice Department closed the investigation.
"Tyshia Millers death was a terrible tragedy," said Assistant Attorney General Boyd. "Our decision to close this investigation does not signal approval of the conduct of these officers, or indeed any official opinion concerning their conduct, but the bottom line is that our investigation, which was conducted conscientiously, has not revealed enough evidence to support a federal criminal prosecution under the criminal statutes we enforce."
"I was disappointed in the Federal Government as our last check and balance," said Rev. Bernell Butler, the architect of the Monday morning protest marches that lasted for two years in Riverside.
Dr. Carolyn Murray, Tyisha Miller Steering Committee member and Professor at the University of California, Riverside, said she was not surprised but she is disappointed. Murray believes there was tampering with the evidence and that no one even talked to the witnesses.
The shooting and subsequent activities became racially charged when it was found that racially insensitive comments were made by the officers shortly after the shooting. They should be happy we used Black bullets ... In L.A. we treat them like kings (Rodney) in Riverside its Miller time, were just some of the statements reportedly made by the officers. The Riverside Police Officers Association even shaved their heads in support of the shooters and caused an outcry from national figures, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Babyface, Dick Gregory, Danny Bakewell, actress Kim Fields, and Congressman Maxine Waters and others, who came to town to protest the actions of the public officials.
The shooting alerted the nation to the tragedy of racial profiling and police abuse that Blacks are facing in many communities across the country. The family hired super attorney Johnnie Cochran to handle the high profile case.
The community seems quiet on the issues said one caller to the Black Voice office.
Butler said, "We are investigating to find grounds to file a lawsuit against the U.S. and State Attorney General and the Riverside District Attorney. The sin of omission or the sin of commission is the same. But they are conspiring to cover-up. Attorney General Lockyer said if there was additional information not used (in the prior investigation) that would be grounds for opening up the investigation. They never considered Rene Rodriguezs statement. They swept it under the rug. They waited until it (the issue) cooled off and people are concerned about terrorism and the pending war. The Bush administration has set us back 10-20 years. They are concerned about dollars not human rights, not civil rights."
Rodriguez was assigned to remain with the officers during the hours following the shooting. He became a whistleblower and was himself afraid for his life. He says he was warned not to talk about what he overheard during that period.
To date the only people to be punished for their actions surrounding the death of Miller was the Freeway 20, twenty people who protested the pace of the investigation by the U. S. Attorneys office by stopping traffic on the 91 freeway.
The four officers have been re-instated by an arbitrator. However the City of Riverside has not rehired them back.
The officers recounted what happened in a deposition about the shooting, to Butlers knowledge it was not considered.
Officer Paul Bugar, said in a deposition acquired by Black Voice News, he had never been interviewed by the State Attorney Generals office and other than his attorney and the Riverside Police Office investigator, he has never talked to anyone about what happened.
Murray said, "Data shows that White officers do not get convicted for killing Blacks." She quoted a study released by New York State Supreme Court Justice Bruce McMarion Wright. "He looked at a number of Black children shot by White officers. No jury would indict them," she said.
Murray also commented on talk show host, Larry Elder, who criticized her statements published in The Los Angeles Times. "Larry Elder is a puppet spokesperson for the White Right. He legitimizes their racism," said Murray.
Mike and Donna Molver were also a part of the protests, and they believe there is no justice for Tyishia Miller. They stated that the Freeway 20 received more jail time than the officers who killed her. "(The case) was closed on a technicality. They didnt want to prosecute. They could find grounds to prosecute us, they could find grounds to prosecute them." Added Donna his wife, "they were let go because they were policemen. We did our time and did it joyfully."
Freeway 20 member Mary Shelton said it sends a message to police that it is alright to kill citizens. "It is not behind us because nothing has changed. The attitude and culture is the same," she said.
Although there is insufficient evidence to proceed criminally in this matter, the Justice Departments civil pattern and practice investigation of the Riverside Police Department is ongoing. In that investigation, the federal government has inquired more broadly into the policies and practices of the Riverside PD including an analysis of policies relating to interaction between officers and the community members they serve.
"Tyisha Millers death was a terrible tragedy," said Assistant General Boyd. "Our decision to close this investigation does not signal approval of the conduct of these officers, or indeed any official opinion concerning their conduct, but the bottom line is that our investigation, which was conducted conscientiously, has not revealed enough evidence to support a federal criminal prosecution under the criminal statutes we enforce."
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