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TAKING NOTE! Elton Hymon: An unsung hero

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “…On March 27, 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that under the Fourth Amendment, when a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, the officer may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless the officer has probable cause to believe the suspect poses a threat of death to the officer and others. The use of deadly force without probable cause was held to constitute an unreasonable seizure. Asked what made the difference in the Tennessee vs. Garner case, Bailey said, ‘officer Hymon told the truth.’”

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Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray Jr.

By Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray Jr., The New Tri-State Defender

In 1973, Memphis was in a volatile situation: the Memphis Police Department and the African-American community were at war. The points of contention were police brutality, the use of deadly force and the appointment and promotion of African-Americans within the department.

For many, it seemed like an ongoing open season for Memphis law enforcement officers to kill African Americans. Two years earlier, teenager Elton Hayes ended up dead after he and two others were in a high-speed chase that involved Memphis police and sheriff’s deputies. The law enforcement version had Hayes dying in a traffic accident.

Others contended Hayes was beaten to death by officers.

Memphis was pushed to the edge of riots, with unrest seething in every segment of the African-American community. In Orange Mound where Hayes lived, there were reports of rock throwing, fire bombings and vandalism. Students left schools in large numbers and congregated on Park Avenue to vent their frustrations and grief.

After several reports of students throwing rocks and bottles at passing cars, police cut off traffic between Pendleton and Hanley and ordered in helicopters. Mayor Henry Loeb declared a citywide curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Memphis was a powder keg with the potential to explode with a spark of indignation and/or disrespect. In early December of 1973, an all-white Criminal Court jury would find eight officers not guilty of murdering Hayes and beating a companion.

African-American leaders – individually and collectively – demanded changes in the use of deadly force and an end to the harassment of African-American citizens. On Oct. 3, 1974 amid rallies, negotiations and petitions, a Memphis police officer fatally shot 15-year-old Edward Garner, a fleeing suspect.

Ironically, the patrolman, Elton Hymon, was African American. I talked with him recently as I sought to put his story into the context of the times.

Hymon, a rookie, had joined the Memphis Police Department in July of 1974 and was introduced to the Memphis-style culture of law enforcement.

“The N word was used often and without hesitation or repercussions and several white officers proudly notched their revolvers for every African-American they had killed,” he said.

Among many white officers, he continued, there was a practice of carrying a “drop gun” to place on a shot or killed suspect to justify use of deadly force.

“I heard all too often that the ‘drop gun’ had kept a many good officer from going to jail.”
At about 10:45 p.m. on Oct. 3, Hymon and his partner were dispatched to a burglary in progress in South Memphis. On the scene, a neighbor warned that the suspect was still in the house. Hymon’s partner covered the front as Hymon rushed to the backyard, where he encountered a suspect, who bolted for a fence.

Rev. Elton Hymon

Hymon ordered him to halt. When the suspect showed no signs of stopping, Hymon fired a shot that struck him in the back of the head. As an ambulance transported the suspect to a local hospital Hymon “began to pray that the suspect would survive.”

“Later on, I learned that the suspect died in surgery and I became unraveled and shaken to my very core,” he said.

“I had to go into the precinct for the initial investigation. I was shaking so badly, the supervisor offered me a shot of bourbon and counseling. I refused the counseling but drank the bourbon immediately.”

That October night was one of the darkest moments in his life, Hymon recalled. And no, he didn’t have a “drop gun” when he shot Garner.

Hymon completed his routine suspension and investigation and returned to a hero’s reception at his precinct.

“What I resented was the implication that after killing an African American I was acceptable,” said Hymon.

Garner’s father, Cleamtee Garner, knew that his eighth-grade son had done wrong but not enough to warrant being fatally shot. He secured the support of the Memphis Branch of the NAACP and attorney Walter L. Bailey Jr. took on the case, which eventually was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 30, 1984.

A civil lawsuit, Tennessee vs. Garner was about the use of deadly force in apprehending a suspect. Bailey was pleasantly surprised when the National Association of Police Officers filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief.

“I strongly felt these police officers wanted some guidelines on the national level,” said Bailey.

Officer Hymon had followed the policy of the Memphis Police Department and the law of Tennessee in shooting Garner.

The state statute read: “If after notice of the intention to arrest the defendant, he either flees or forcibly resists, the officer may use all necessary means to effect the arrest.”

Herein is the problem: when Officer Hymon pulled the trigger of his police revolver, he instantly became judge, jury and executioner. No witnesses, no proof, in the darkness of night and no prima facie evidence.

Bailey had tried two previous cases on the very same premise – unarmed fleeing suspects, who pose no threat to the police officers or any other person should they escape, should not be the victims of deadly force. In both instances, the governing policy and statute regarding deadly force had been ruled constitutional.

On March 27, 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that under the Fourth Amendment, when a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, the officer may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless the officer has probable cause to believe the suspect poses a threat of death to the officer and others. The use of deadly force without probable cause was held to constitute an unreasonable seizure.

Asked what made the difference in the Tennessee vs. Garner case, Bailey said, “officer Hymon told the truth.”

“The truth was young Edward Garner did not pose a threat to him or anyone else, he knew Garner was unarmed for he saw his hands as he attempted to scale the fence.

“We could have well lost that case if officer Hymon had testified to the contrary, as the police culture demanded. I feel very strongly that the testimony of officer Hymon has saved thousands of lives and he truly is an unsung hero.”

As we celebrate African-American History Month, the career of Officer Elton Hymon is worthy of recognition and celebration. He served and protected our community for 35 1/2 years, became an ordained minister, served the children of our school system and provided personal security for Dr. Willie W. Herenton, the first African American elected mayor of Memphis.

In 2009, Hymon retired with the rank of captain. He never hit a homerun in Yankee Stadium, never ran for a touchdown at Soldier’s Field nor connected from behind the three-point line at FedExForum, yet he is imminently worthy of being our hero.

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Fighting an Unjust System, The Bail Project Helps People Get Out of Jail and Reunites Families

In addition to posting bail at no cost to the person or their family, The Bail Project works to connect its clients to social services and community resources based on an individual’s identified needs, including substance use treatment, mental health support, stable housing and employment.

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Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.
Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.

Hundreds of thousands of individuals locked up in jails almost daily — many find it challenging to pay bail

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

As public support for criminal justice reform continues to build — and as the pandemic raises the stakes higher — advocates remain adamant that it’s more important than ever that the facts are straight, and everyone understands the bigger picture.

“The U.S. doesn’t have one ‘criminal justice system;’ instead, we have thousands of federal, state, local, and tribal systems,” Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner found in a study released by the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative.

Together, these systems hold almost 2 million people in 1,566 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2,850 local jails, 1,510 juvenile correctional facilities, 186 immigration detention facilities, and 82 Indian country jails, as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories,” the study authors said in a press release.

With hundreds of thousands of individuals locked up in jails almost daily, many find it challenging to pay bail.

Recognizing America’s ongoing mass incarceration problem and the difficulties families have in bailing out their loved ones, a new organization began in 2018 to offer some relief.

The Bail Project, a nationwide charitable fund for pretrial defendants, started with a vision of combating mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system.

Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.

“We have a mission of doing exactly what we hope our criminal system would do: protect the presumption of innocence, reunite families, and challenge a system that we know can criminalize poverty,” Johnson stated.

“Our mission is to end cash bail and create a more just, equitable, and humane pretrial system,” she insisted.

Johnson said The Bronx Freedom Fund, at the time a new revolving bail fund that launched in New York, planted the seed for The Bail Project more than a decade ago.

“Because bail is returned at the end of a case, we can build a sustainable revolving fund where philanthropic dollars can be used several times per year, maximizing the impact of every contribution,” Johnson stated.

In addition to posting bail at no cost to the person or their family, The Bail Project works to connect its clients to social services and community resources based on an individual’s identified needs, including substance use treatment, mental health support, stable housing and employment.

Johnson noted that officials created cash bail to incentivize people to return to court.

Instead, she said, judges routinely set cash bail well beyond most people’s ability to afford it, resulting in thousands of legally innocent people incarcerated while they await court dates.

According to The Bail Project, Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by cash bail, and of all Black Americans in jail in the U.S., nearly half are from southern prisons.

“There is no way to do the work of advancing pretrial reform without addressing the harmful effects of cash bail in the South,” said Robin Steinberg, Founder, and CEO of The Bail Project.

“Cash bail fuels racial and economic disparities in our legal system, and we look forward to supporting the community in Greenville as we work to eliminate cash bail and put ourselves out of business.”

Since its launch, The Bail Project has stationed teams in more than 25 cities, posting bail for more than 18,000 people nationwide.

Johnson said the organization uses its national revolving bail fund, powered by individual donations, to pay bail.

The Bail Project has spent over $47 million on bail.

“When we post bail for a person, we post the full cash amount at court,” Johnson stated.

“Upon resolution of the case, the money returns to whoever posted. So, if I posted $5,000 to bail someone out, we then help the person get back to court and resolve the case,” she continued.

“The money then comes back to us, and we can use that money to help someone else. So, we recycle that.”

Johnson said eliminating cash bail and the need for bail funds remains the goal.

“It’s the just thing to do. It restores the presumption of innocence, and it restores families,” Johnson asserted.

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PRESS ROOM: EPA Administrator Regan to Join Leaders of Civil Rights, Environmental Justice Movement for Significant Announcement in Warren County, North Carolina

NNPA NEWSWIRE — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan will be joined by significant figures from the civil rights and environmental justice movements, including Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and other participants from the original Warren County protests for the event.
The post PRESS ROOM: EPA Administrator Regan to Join Leaders of Civil Rights, Environmental Justice Movement for Significant Announcement in Warren County, North Carolina first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Administrator to honor legacy of environmental justice and civil rights at event in Warren County, site of protests that launched the movement 40 years ago

WASHINGTON (September 22, 2022) – On Saturday, September 24, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan will travel to Warren County, North Carolina to deliver remarks on EPA’s environmental justice and civil rights priorities and the progress we’ve achieved since the first protest and march that launched the movement 40 years ago this week. Administrator Regan will make a significant announcement on President Biden’s commitment to elevate environmental justice and civil rights enforcement at EPA and across the federal government and ensure the work to support our most vulnerable communities continues for years to come.

Administrator Regan will be joined by significant figures from the civil rights and environmental justice movements, including participants from the original Warren County protests for the event.

Who:
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan
Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01)
Environmental Justice and Civil Rights Leaders
Warren County residents and community leaders
Additional stakeholders

What: Remarks on EPA environmental justice and civil rights priorities and honoring the legacy of the environmental justice and civil rights movement
When: Saturday, September 24, 2022,
Doors Open: 11:30 AM ET
Program: 12:45 PM ET
;
Where: Warren County Courthouse
109 S Main Street
Warrenton, NC 27589
Livestream: A livestream of this event will be available at epa.gov/live.

The post PRESS ROOM: EPA Administrator Regan to Join Leaders of Civil Rights, Environmental Justice Movement for Significant Announcement in Warren County, North Carolina first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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September 26 | Governance at the Local Level | The Conversation with Al McFarlane

Join Al McFarlane (Host), Brenda Lyle-Gray (Co-Host) and Special Guest Co-Host Diana Hawkins, Executive Director for …
The post September 26 | Governance at the Local Level | The Conversation with Al McFarlane first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Join Al McFarlane (Host), Brenda Lyle-Gray (Co-Host) and Special Guest Co-Host Diana Hawkins, Executive Director for …

The post September 26 | Governance at the Local Level | The Conversation with Al McFarlane first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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