Blank Thread Dec 3, 2006 18:45:11 GMT -5
Post by KC on Dec 3, 2006 18:45:11 GMT -5
The Rev. Al Sharpton shook his head as he walked past the crime scene tape and makeshift memorials outside the home of Kathryn Johnston, the elderly woman gunned down last month by narcotics police officers serving a warrant there.
"Terrible," he muttered Sunday morning as he turned away from the scene of teddy bears and a wreath laid in front of the tan brick house.
Sharpton said Johnston's death _ along with the death of 23-year-old groom-to-be Sean Bell, who was fatally shot by police on his wedding day outside a Queens, N.Y., strip club _ is an example of "a new sense of police recklessness" sweeping the country.
"Something stinks in this case," he said. "In fact, it smelled so bad that I smelled it in New York."
Sharpton stood with local activists and called for the incoming Congress to address the issue of policing on a federal level.
"There seems to be a new spirit in law enforcement that they can become the judge, jury and executioner of the law on the scene," Sharpton said.
Such a mentality enforces a police state, he said, and sends a message to law enforcement that due process means nothing.
"Police apprehend suspects; they don't kill them," Sharpton said. "This cannot be tolerated in a civilized society."
Johnston _ who her family said was 92, but was 88 according to the county medical examiner _ had few visitors and lived in fear in Vine City. The northwest Atlanta neighborhood near the Atlanta University Center and the Georgia Dome is plagued with crime and drugs.
The elderly woman was home alone the night of Nov. 21 when a group of plainclothes officers burst in, searching for drugs.
Johnston opened fire, wounding three officers before she was shot to death. The officers had obtained a "no-knock" warrant earlier that day after they said an informant bought drugs at the house from a man who has not been arrested.
The informant later denied buying drugs at Johnston's home and said he was told by police to lie about the incident, Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington said, adding that informant, who's in protective custody, is a key part of the FBI-led investigation into the shootout.
The Rev. Markel Hutchins has led the community response to Johnston's shooting and prayed with Sharpton in front of her home, praising Johnston's life, legacy and courage.
"We pray that this day will be a catalyst for change in this community and for congressional action," Hutchins said.
Sharpton has been at the forefront of the Queens shooting. Bell and his friends were leaving his bachelor party on Nov. 25 when the group was hit by a hail of police bullets. Police have said that Bell's vehicle hit one officer and an unmarked police car, and officers apparently thought one of Bell's companions was about to get to a gun.
Critics say the use of force was not justified, pointing to the firing of more than 50 shots. Sharpton said Sunday that federal standards for policing are needed, and the pattern of policies like no-knock warrants and the use of informants is a civil rights issue that should be under investigation along with individual incidents like the Johnston and Bell shootings.
"A crime is a crime whether the perpetrator has on a blue uniform or blue jeans," Sharpton said.