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Officer Who Shot Man Had Prior Excessive Force Complaint

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Anthony Scott holds a photo of himself, center, and his brothers Walter Scott, left, and Rodney Scott, right, as he talks about his brother at his home near North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Walter Scott was killed by a North Charleston police officer after a traffic stop on Saturday. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager,  has been charged with murder. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Anthony Scott holds a photo of himself, center, and his brothers Walter Scott, left, and Rodney Scott, right, as he talks about his brother at his home near North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Walter Scott was killed by a North Charleston police officer after a traffic stop on Saturday. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been charged with murder. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

MITCH WEISS, Associated Press
MICHAEL BIESECKER, Associated Press

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The white South Carolina police officer charged with murder for shooting an unarmed black man in the back was allowed to stay on the force despite a 2013 complaint that he used excessive force against another unarmed black man.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Mario Givens recounted Wednesday how he was awakened before dawn one morning by loud banging on the front door of his family’s North Charleston home.

On the porch was Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager, the officer now charged in the shooting death of Walter Lamer Scott, which was captured in dramatic cellphone footage by a bystander Saturday.

Givens, who was clad only in a T-shirt and boxer shorts, cracked open his door and asked what the officer wanted.

“He said he wanted to come in but didn’t say why,” said Givens, now 33. “He never said who he was looking for.”

Then, without warning, Slager pushed in the door, he said.

“Come outside or I’ll tase you,” he quoted the officer as saying, adding: “I didn’t want that to happen to me, so I raised my arms over my head, and when I did, he tased me in my stomach anyway.”

Givens said the pain from the stun gun was so intense that he dropped to the floor and began calling for his mother, who also was in the home. At that point, he said another police officer came into the house and they dragged him outside and threw him to the ground. He was handcuffed and put in a squad car.

Though initially accused of resisting the officers, Givens was later released without charge.

Asked about the 2013 incident on Wednesday, North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor said the department plans to review the case to see whether its decision to exonerate Slager was correct. Pryor said he had no timetable for the review.

Givens’ relatives remember the encounter vividly.

“It was very devastating,” said Bessie Givens, 57, who was awaked by her son’s piercing screams. “You watch your son like that, he’s so vulnerable. You don’t know what’s going to happen. I was so scared.”

It turned out that Givens’ arrest was a case of mistaken identity. Officers had been looking for his brother, Matthew Givens, whose ex-girlfriend had reported that he came into her bedroom uninvited, then left when she screamed and called 911.

The woman, Maleah Kiara Brown, told The AP on Wednesday that she and a friend had gone to the Givens home with the officers and were sitting outside when Slager knocked on the door. The second officer had gone around to the back of the house.

She had provided the officers with a detailed description of her ex-boyfriend, Matthew Givens, who is about 5 feet, 5 inches tall. Mario Givens stands well over 6 feet.

“He looked nothing like the description I gave the officers,” Brown said. “He asked the officer why he was at the house. He did it nicely. The police officer said he wanted him to step outside. Then he asked, ‘Why, why do you want me to step outside?’ Then the officer barged inside and grabbed him.”

Moments later, she saw the police officers drag Mario Givens out of the house and throw him in the dirt. Brown said she kept yelling to the officers that they had the wrong man, but they wouldn’t listen. Though Givens was offering no resistance, she said, she saw Slager use the stun gun on him again.

“He was screaming, in pain,” she said. “He said, ‘You tased me. You tased me. Why?’ It was awful. Terrible. I asked the officer why he tased him and he told me to get back.”

“He was cocky,” she said of Slager. “It looked like he wanted to hurt him. There was no need to tase him. No reason. He was no threat — and we told him he had the wrong man.”

She said she later told a female police supervisor what she had seen.

The next day, an angry Mario Givens went downtown to police headquarters and filed a formal complaint. He and his mother say several neighbors who witnessed what happened on the family’s front lawn also contacted the police, though they say officers refused to take their statements.

The incident report filed by Slager and the other officer, Maurice Huggins, provides a very different version of events. In the report, obtained by The AP through a public-records request, Slager wrote that he could not see one of Givens’ hands and feared he might be holding a weapon. He wrote that he observed sweat on Givens’ shirt, which he perceived as evidence that he could have run from Brown’s home, and then ordered him to exit several times.

When Givens didn’t comply, Slager said he entered the home to prevent him from fleeing and was then forced to use his stun gun when Givens struggled with him. The officers’ report describes the Givens brothers as looking “just alike.”

After Mario Givens filed his complaint, the department opened an internal investigation. A brief report in Slager’s personnel file says a senior officer was assigned to investigate. After a couple of weeks, the case was closed with a notation that Slager was “exonerated.”

Brown is listed as a witness in the investigative report, but her purported statement included none of the details she said she provided about Slager shocking Givens while he was on the ground. She said she was never contacted as part of the police investigation and had not spoken with anyone about that night until she was contacted by an AP reporter Wednesday.

The report includes statements from Givens and from another woman who was there that night, Yolonda Whitaker, who said she saw Slager stun Givens “for no reason.” Efforts to reach Whitaker by phone and the addresses listed for her in the police report were unsuccessful.

Givens said he was never contacted as part of the internal investigation and learned the case had been closed only after he went to the station about six weeks later and asked what happened.

“They never told me how they reached the conclusion. Never. They never contacted anyone from that night. No one from the neighborhood,” Givens said.

Givens shook his head Wednesday when asked about his reaction to learning Slager had been charged with murder. Slager is being held without bail.

“It could have been prevented,” Givens said of Scott’s death. “If they had just listened to me and investigated what happened that night, this man might be alive today.”

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Biesecker reported from Raleigh, North Carolina. Associated Press writer Jeffery Collins in North Charleston, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

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Follow Biesecker at http://Twitter.com/mbieseck

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

History

The Black Press: Our Trusted Messenger

Our Black newspapers are now celebrating 194 years of being the keeper of the flame of liberty and the source of information in “our” struggle for freedom and equality.

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Cover of the Oakland Post

Sometimes it’s necessary to be reminded who we are and who our friends are.  It’s also important to remember from whence we have come. 

Such is the case this week with the Black Press. Our Black newspapers are now celebrating 194 years of being the keeper of the flame of liberty and the source of information in “our” struggle for freedom and equality.

With the advent of the recent pandemic and the visible disparity of Blacks dying at greater numbers than others, getting fewer vaccines, working in the highest risk occupations and death at the hands of law enforcement, our need for a “trusted” source of information is greater than social media, which has become an alternative for many.

 At the same time, the interest in reaching our communities has increased on all levels. The question has become “who is in touch with the Black community” as injustice, murder and social disparity continues to grow among Blacks. 

The NAACP and the Urban League gave the impression that they were in touch with the Black community. But the reality is neither organization has ever been in touch with the Black community without the Black Press.  It is Black newspapers and not CNN, ABC, NBC or CBS that carries the articles and commentaries of these organizations to the Black community. 

Yet, neither of these organizations ever mentions the Black Press when taking both credit and dollars for outreach to the Black community.

The African American and Black communities of America should not be duped into believing that social media has become a substitute for the Black Press. The Black Press is now both print and electronic, it’s a newswire service as provided by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), providing coverage of both news here in America and around the world.

 It is the Black Press that has been the “Trusted Messenger” to our communities for 194 years, and that says a lot. Our newspapers are the rear guard, the battle ground against the efforts to resegregate America and return to “Jim Crow” racism.

As we celebrate Juneteenth, let us remember that we are not only free but capable of defending and determining our futures if we get serious. Let’s remember how we got here, on the backs of those like the Black Press who bought us thus far; let us not forget in the words of James Weldon Johnson: that “ we have come over a way that with tears has been watered, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.” We are still being slaughtered today by others as well as each other.

Let’s remember who is truly telling our story and our obligation to keep and support that effort. Pick up a Black newspaper and get involved. You owe that and more to keeping the Juneteenth principle of freedom alive today.

Editor-in-Chief note:  The Post News Group consists of nine newspapers:  Oakland, South County, San Francisco, Vallejo, Marin, Stockton, Richmond, Berkeley Tri-City and El Mundo.  We are also online at postnewsgroup.com.

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Black History

Juneteenth: Our Independence Day

Also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, it commemorates the end of slavery, the seminal event in Black history.

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Graphic courtesy istock.

June 19, or Juneteenth, is independence day for many Americans of African descent.

Also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, it commemorates the end of slavery, the seminal event in Black history.

President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect on Jan. 1, 1863, but was read to slaves in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, more than two years later.

There are several different accounts of why the news of freedom took so long to arrive.

One story has it that slaves were intentionally kept ignorant about their freedom in order to allow crops to continue being harvested. Another has a messenger traveling by mule to deliver the news, and it simply took more than two years to arrive from Washington, D.C., to Texas. Yet another story has the messenger being murdered before he could deliver the message.

No matter the origin of Juneteenth, the end of slavery is definitely worth celebrating. But while much has happened in the 158 years since slavery officially ended, its legacies still remain in the form of disparate salaries, educational levels and incarceration rates.

Juneteenth, which is now observed in 48 states (North Dakota and Hawaii do not observe)  and the District of Columbia, is a time to take stock of our progress — and of the work that remains.

Last year, during the pandemic our current vice president and former senator, Kamala Harris, said:  “[m]y message on this Juneteenth:  may we honor those who suffered, died and survived the crushing reality of slavery by looking to the future.”

Twelve years ago President Barack Obama said: “African Americans helped to build our nation brick by brick and have contributed to her growth in every way, even when rights and liberties were denied to them.”

We’re still building it.

In 2021, as our state opens up post-pandemic and we deal with racial reckoning as we never have before  #BlackLivesMatter is becoming a reality. 

This year is truly our Independence Day.

Happy Juneteenth.

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Community

Turner Family Patriarch Turns 100, Passes the Torch

A huge fan of the L.A. Dodgers, Turner was invited to try out for the Dodgers Minor System in the early 1950s and the ambidextrous Turner once pitched a double header left-handed in the first game and right-handed in the second.

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Caption: Douglas “Buster” Turner looks out over Oakland and the San Francisco Bay from his back porch on May 28, 2021, just six days after his 100th birthday. Photo by Christy Price.

A poem written for Douglas “Buster” Turner’s 100th birthday is entitled “My Eyes Have Seen a Lot of Things.” After 100 years on Earth, that is an understatement. Turner’s life began on May 22, 1921, in Ansley, La., as the son of Nada and John Turner. 

Turner had a full childhood surrounded by his 13 siblings in Morton, Miss., where they were raised. Turner’s parents instilled in their children a sense of honor and pride by teaching them to be accountable and take responsibility for their actions while still giving them the autonomy they needed to become their own people. 

And become his own person, he did!

A young Turner served in the United States Army, completing a tour of duty in Nazi Germany during World War II. After an honorable discharge from the military, Turner utilized the benefits being a veteran offered him through the GI Bill. 

Turner married Coreene in 1940 and they took up a nomadic lifestyle in the Deep South during the Jim Crow era. They adjusted and adapted as they traveled along what his son, Eddie Turner, refers to as the ‘Chitlin Circuit,’ barnstorming with various Negro League Baseball teams through Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Georgia. Turner moved to Oakland in 1949 with the rest of the family joining him about a year later. 

A huge fan of the L.A. Dodgers, Turner was invited to try out for the Dodgers Minor System in the early 1950s and the ambidextrous Turner once pitched a double header left-handed in the first game and right-handed in the second.

The time spent on the road with Coreene, who passed away in 2015, created a bond that lasted 75 years and produced seven children. The Turners would raise Albertine, Eddie, Fred, Johnny, Michael, Mary, and Sherrie with the same family values that Turner had been raised with. 

Their door was always open to the neighborhood children and the family never met a stranger. Douglas Turner’s legacy is an open, helping hand, one of caring and sharing. 

To provide for his family, both close and extended, Turner became a union journeyman machinist. Turner employed many workers at his Mohawk Gas Station in Oakland, Calif. before the brand changed hands. When his budget kept him from buying a much needed truck, Turner’s innovation and imagination led him to repurpose a car into a truck, well before the El Camino made its debut. 

As Mr. Turner turns 100 years old and dementia confuses time and memories for him; he often revisits the past. His son becomes his brother, and he is once again a young man. 

Though the memories are fading for him, the stories of his epic journeys will not end: Turner’s children will carry on the Turner legacy of accountability, responsibility, integrity, and autonomy. The Turner family is the product of all the hard work that Turner did in making a strong family unit filled with the wonderful tales they saw through their father’s eyes. 

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