Aisha Flood stood before the Raleigh City Council on Tuesday night wearing a shirt bearing photos of her two brothers’ faces, asking for an apology.
Raleigh police officers were responsible for each of their deaths, she said.
In 2013, her brother Maurice Harden was killed when a police officer struck a scooter that he was riding with Trindell Thomas on Skycrest Drive in East Raleigh. They were 20 and 21 years old, respectively. Authorities didn’t press charges against the officer, Jonathan Crews, because he was in a high-speed pursuit of another driver.
Flood’s other brother, Jaqwan Julius Terry, was killed during a shootout with police last summer. He was 24. Police say he pulled a gun and shot at Officer B.K. Burleson after a foot chase.
“You took away two of my brothers, not one,” said Flood, 34. “We’ll never be able to sit at the table with them again, and our kids will never know them.”
Friends and family of Harden and Thomas joined members of the Raleigh Police Accountability Task Force, or PACT, at city hall on Tuesday night to ask the City Council to issue a formal apology for their deaths. They also want the council to open investigations into each case and review insurance options that would cover a family’s damages in future police-involved deaths.
Tuesday’s calls for action are the latest in a string of cries for the city to enact more oversight of the police department since last February, when an officer shot and killed Akiel Denkins after a foot chase. Officer D.C. Twiddy was attempting to arrest Denkins, 24, for failing to appear in court on a drug charge when police say Denkins pulled a gun on Twiddy. Some residents believe Denkins was unarmed and fleeing when Twiddy shot him.
Denkins’ mother, Rolanda Byrd, joined Flood and Ashley McCleod, a first cousin of Harden and Terry, at the podium as they fought through tears to ask city leaders for police reforms and proper financial restitution. McCleod, 27, said her mom adopted Harden and that she thinks about him all the time. They share the same birthday.
“Please ... have a heart,” she said. “I’m pouring my heart out. Just rethink and revisit this situation.”
If it was anyone else who had done it, they would have to pay.
Joel Herring, mother of Trindell Thomas, who was hit and killed by a Raleigh police officer who was involved in a high-speed chase.
PACT and the ACLU have asked the city to create an independent panel to review controversial police actions and de-prioritize enforcement of marijuana laws, among other requests. Council members rejected most requests, saying state laws prevent them from creating the panel or reducing enforcement of specific crimes. The council did, however, buy cameras for police to wear while on-duty and started requiring officers to obtain written consent to search residents.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said city officials have been advised by attorneys not to comment on the case involving Crews, the officer who hit the scooter, because it’s still in litigation.
State laws void speed limits for law enforcement officials who are trying to apprehend suspects. So then-Wake District Attorney Colon Willoughby declined to press charges against Crews, who was traveling 76 mph in a 35-mph zone when he struck the scooter, according to police reports.
The families sued the city in civil court, but a judge ruled against them on Jan. 23, saying the city isn’t liable for the accident “because of the victim’s blood alcohol content,” according to a task force statement. The families are appealing, according to Kimberly Muktarian, a PACT member and representative of Save Our Sons of Raleigh.
In the meantime, she said the families affected by Raleigh police will continue to seek answers.
Standing in the lobby after the council meeting, Joel Herring was left only with more questions. Herring, 46, is Thomas’ mother. She thought about one word on her son’s death certificate – “accident” – and wondered why police won’t take more responsibility.
“If it was anyone else who had done it, they would have to pay,” Herring said.