Supporters of man accused of shooting Durham cop plan rally

CorrespondentJuly 30, 2013 

Supporters of a Durham man they say is falsely accused of shooting a Durham police officer will rally Saturday in Long Meadow Park against alleged police brutality and racial profiling.

The “Block Party for Justice,” sponsored by the Liberty and Justice for Carlos Riley Jr. Coalition, a diverse group of community supporters, will take place from 2 to 6 p.m. in the park between Liberty and Holloway streets.

Riley, 21, is in jail on federal and state charges including felony assault on a law enforcement officer stemming from a December incident in which a plain-clothed officer was shot in the leg with his own weapon.

Carlos Riley Sr. says his son was days from being released from probation related to a drug charge several years ago. But he and supporters say Riley Jr. is innocent of the latest charges and that he was forced to defend himself after the officer threatened to shoot him during an unjustified stop.

Citing concern for his safety, Riley Jr. initially left the scene. He is being held under $1 million bail.

The Police Department, citing the ongoing case, is not commenting on the case.

Riley Jr.’s next court date is set for Monday.

Saturday’s rally continues a series of protests over the past year. Supporters have knocked on doors, passed out petitions and set up a Facebook page drawing parallels to the Trayvon Martin case. A petition at Change.org asking for Riley Jr.’s release has about 1,500 supporters.

A recent paper by UNC-Chapel Hill political science professor Frank Baumgartner for the North Carolina Advocates for Justice Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Bias has pointed out that not only are minority drivers more likely to be stopped in North Carolina, but they are also more likely to be treated differently during the stop.

A state statute in 1999 was the first in the country to require police to record racial and ethnic data in all traffic stops. The paper’s research sampled more than 13 million stops and searches state-wide over more than 3,800 days between January 2000 and June 2011.

It found that blacks were 77 percent more likely to be searched during a stop and Hispanics are 96 percent more likely to be searched. In seat belt violation stops, blacks were 223 percent more likely to be searched than whites and Hispanics 106 percent more likely.

Also data from the NCAJ’s task force found that in Durham, blacks are nearly nine times more likely to be arrested than whites – the highest racial disparity among any N.C. county.

A spokesperson for the Durham Police Department said they have not seen the report and could not comment on it.

Nickerson case

Riley’s supporters point to another case, that of Stephanie Nickerson, a Navy veteran, who faced charges in October 2012, as proof of a pattern. Nickerson was allegedly beaten by a Durham police officer who eventually resigned. The charges against her were dropped earlier this year.

Destiny Hemphill, a rising Duke junior, attended several community meetings about profiling and police force at J.C.’s Kitchen on East Main Street and at the Durham Solidarity Center in the Hayti Heritage Center.

She tells the story of her father being harassed in Austin, Texas, after neighbors called police about a man trying to enter a house.

Her father’s key had gotten stuck.

“All this personalized it for me because many people think profiling is a remote structure,” she said. “It’s not part of the everyday existence for some.”

Hemphill said the findings in the UNC-CH study are “disappointing and sad” but not surprising. She pointed to the “school-to-prison pipeline” that she noticed growing up when minority classmates were disproportionately suspended and sent to juvenile detention compared with others who got lesser punishments for the same offenses.

“Profiling doesn’t always involve law enforcement,” she said. “It points to a broader issue.”

‘Many run-ins’

Victor Bynum, 25, is a black man who grew up off Alston Avenue. He has known Riley Jr. since middle school, and their families attend Victory at Calvary Covenant Ministries on North Driver Street.

He said he’s had “many run-ins” with the police and has been stopped without cause.

“The first thing they would say was to open my mouth like I’ve got something in it,” he said. “They wouldn’t ask for a license or registration until the end.”

Bynum said some officers that know people in the community have good relationships, but many others do not.

He plans on speaking Saturday to motivate people to not be “stagnant.”

“If more people come out and get involved, things may change,” he said. “People must realize how much power is in unity.”

“There’s no unity if people stay sitting at home.”

Koonce: 919-685-2452

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