Houston Police Shot Man Killed in Fraudulent Drug Raid at Least Eight Times

Dennis Tuttle and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, who was shot twice, were pronounced dead shortly after police invaded their home based on a “controlled buy” that never happened.

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Houston narcotics officers shot Dennis Tuttle at least eight times during the January 28 drug raid that killed him and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, at their home on Harding Street. The no-knock raid, based on allegations that Tuttle and Nicholas were selling heroin, found no heroin and no evidence of drug dealing. The officer who obtained the warrant, Gerald Goines, reported a “controlled buy” at the house that apparently never happened.

According to an autopsy report dated March 19, Tuttle suffered gunshot wounds in his head and neck, chest, left shoulder, left buttock (which was struck twice), left thigh, left forearm, left hand, right wrist, and right forearm (two graze wounds). The report says the chest injury “may represent a re-entrance wound of a fragmented bullet associated with one of the gunshot wounds of the upper extremities.” The officers reported that they shot Tuttle after he fired at them with a .357 Magnum revolver in response to their armed invasion of his home, during which they killed a dog with a shotgun immediately after crashing through the door.

Another autopsy report, also dated March 19, says Nicholas was shot in the torso and right thigh. Police said they shot her after she moved toward the officer with the shotgun, who had collapsed on a couch after being shot by Tuttle. They said they believed she was trying to take away the shotgun. There is no video of the raid to corroborate that account. Both Tuttle, who was 59, and Nicholas, who was 58, were pronounced dead at 5:15 p.m., shortly after police broke into their home.

The only drugs that police found in the house were 18 grams of marijuana and 1.5 grams of cocaine. Those are also the only drugs detected by the toxicology tests described in the autopsy reports: THC and a THC metabolite in Tuttle’s blood and benzoylecgonine, a cocaine metabolite, in Nicholas’ blood. Notably, the tests found no traces of heroin, fentanyl, or other opioids.

Although Police Chief Art Acevedo has said the affidavit for the search warrant was falsified, he continues to defend the investigation that led to the raid, citing a January 8 call from an unnamed woman who reported that her daughter was using drugs at the house and described Tuttle and Nicholas as armed and dangerous drug dealers. Acevedo also said neighbors had thanked police for raiding the couple’s home, which he said was locally notorious as a “drug house” and a “problem location.”

Those claims are inconsistent with the accounts of neighbors interviewed by Houston news outlets. They said that Tuttle and Nicholas, who had lived in the house for two decades, were perfectly nice people and that they had never noticed any suspicious activity at the house.

KTRK, the ABC station in Houston, reported in February that the woman who called police on January 8 was Nicholas’ mother, who was concerned about her own daughter’s drug use. But that report is inconsistent with Acevedo’s account and with what Nicholas’ mother, Jo Ann Nicholas, has told reporters. “I want her name cleared,” the grieving 84-year-old woman said in a March 25 interview with KTRK.

Four officers, including Goines, were injured by gunfire during the raid, but it is not clear where those rounds came from. It seems implausible that Tuttle, even if he fired all six rounds from the revolver, was able to hit his targets four times in the chaotic circumstances of the raid. Acevedo initially responded indignantly to the suggestion that officers were hit by “friendly fire,” but that question is part of the Houston Police Department’s ongoing investigation. This morning I asked the HPD whether the issue has been resolved but have not heard back yet.

After I requested copies of the autopsy reports on April 1, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan claimed the documents were not subject to disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act. Citing the law’s exception for information that “would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime,” Ryan sought an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who I gather disagreed.

Update, May 7: HPD spokesman Kese Smith said the department is not releasing any information on the “friendly fire” issue until it completes its internal affairs and criminal investigations of the operation. He said those investigations should be completed by mid-May, at which point the department will report its findings to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, which is conducting its own investigation. The FBI is also looking into potential civil rights violations.

 

| “Houston Police Shot Man Killed in Fraudulent Drug Raid at Least Eight Times”, https://reason.com/2019/05/06/houston-police-shot-man-killed-in-fraudulent-heroin-raid-at-least-8-times/

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Broward County Deputies Assaulted a Black Teen. But ‘Accountability’ Is Not Enough.

Video still from footage of a Broward County Sheriff's deputy assaulting a black teenager, April 2019.

Video still from footage of a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy assaulting a black teenager, April 2019. Photo: Screenshot via Broward County Sheriff’s Office

The sheriff’s office in Broward County, Florida, has promised to investigate two of its deputies for assaulting a black 15 year old on Thursday. An 18-second video shows the officials — Christopher Krickovich and Sergeant Greg LaCerra — pepper-spraying the teen in the face, banging his forehead against concrete, and punching him on the side of his head. (The teen’s name has not been disclosed in news reports, but he has been identified on social media as “Lucca.”) Footage of the incident has circulated nationally, prompting outraged responses from celebrities and lawmakers alike. Sheriff Gregory Tony tried to assuage the concerns of local black civic leaders by vowing a “tactful” investigation. “That’s the most electrifying and dangerous situation for a law enforcement administrator to handle,” Tony, the county’s first black sheriff, said on Saturday, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “Any time a white deputy is involved in contact with using force on a black youth, this thing blows up.”

That such a thing might “blow up” is appropriate. Years of activism and reporting have demonstrated the racism with which law enforcement is applied across the United States. In Broward County, its impact on black youth has been a point of special focus. A 2013 initiative led by Robert Runcie, superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, sought to eliminate disparities in the rates at which black students were suspended and arrested for in-school misconduct compared to their white peers. (During the 2011-2012 school year, black students were roughly two-thirds of those suspended, mostly for minor incidents — like using profanity or disrupting class — despite being 40 percent of the student body, according to the American Prospect.) Runcie partnered with local advocates and law enforcement to implement alternatives to suspension and prohibit arrests — 71 percent of which were for misdemeanors — in some cases where they had been allowed before. (Officers were, however, allowed to override some of these prohibitions: “I wanted to make sure deputies always had discretion,” then-Sheriff Scott Israel told the Prospect.)

The effect was almost immediate. By the end of 2013, suspensions had dropped 40 percent and arrests of students had fallen 66 percent. A more humane tint began to color how local law enforcement treated black children for whom youthful mistakes often meant years of condemnation as criminals. But Thursday’s incident proves that progress on one front does not constitute a sea change any more than it precludes regression. After 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last February, criticism of how Broward County Sheriff’s deputies handled the shooting — including their failure to immediately enter the school when gunshots were reported — prompted an emphasis on meeting perceived threats with swift violence, according to the Washington Post. Deputies have since been re-trained on how to subdue subjects in what one sheriff’s union official described to the Post as a “Fight Club atmosphere.” Some participants have suffered injuries in the process, ranging from fractured bones to a detached retina to brain bleeding.

So when dispatchers on Thursday received calls that a group of teenagers had gathered in a McDonald’s parking lot in Tamarac — a popular hangout for local high schoolers — and that some of them were fighting, they applied the kind of immediate and decisive force that many wished they had wielded against Cruz. Among the differences was that such force is used traditionally against black youth with no such justification — as examples ranging from the 2015 police assault on a black girl in Richland County, South Carolina, to the February police beating of a black girl in Chicago illustrate. For these victims, the misapplication of brutal police training was their lot well before Parkland. That the 15 year old on Thursday committed no clear infraction, let alone a crime, highlights the absurdity of continuing to apply it after. In effect, the training changes in Broward County seek to level against men like Cruz a degree of violence that, for many unarmed black children, was already a danger. Such are the wages of a culture that looks to atrocities like Parkland to shape law enforcement policy, but seems unable or unwilling to ensure that officers do not greet innocent people with the same violence.

Accordingly, Krickovich, who wrote the police report about Thursday’s incident, seemed to inflate Thursday’s threat to justify his response. In his telling, he was arresting another teen for trespassing when Lucca bent down to pick up the boy’s cell phone. “While I was dealing with the male on the ground, I observed his phone slide to the right of me and then behind me,” Krickovich wrote, according to the Sun Sentinel. “I observed a teen [Lucca] wearing a red tank top reach down and attempt to grab the male student’s phone.” In the video, another deputy — identified by the Sun Sentinel as LaCerra — is seen shoving Lucca, after which Lucca appears to object verbally. In the report, Krickovich wrote that Lucca “took an aggressive stance” toward LaCerra, “bladed his body and began clenching his fists.” (The video shows no such clear aggression.) LaCerra then pepper-sprayed Lucca in the face and threw him to the ground. Claiming that he feared for his safety, Krickovich “jumped on [Lucca],” grabbed the prone teen by both sides of his head, slammed his forehead against the concrete, and punched him before another deputy helped him apply handcuffs.

Whether the deputies were actually afraid is less knowable — and arguably less telling — than their confidence that claiming they were would exonerate them of wrongdoing. Racism shapes this expectation. Outlandish scenarios arise from police accounts of the dangers that young black men allegedly pose. Officer Darren Wilson equated Michael Brown to a “demon” during his testimony about the 2014 shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, that sparked protests and riots. “[He] had the most intense, aggressive face,” Wilson told a grand jury. “The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon.” If one accepts that Brown was “like a demon,” claims that he barreled toward a police officer through a hail of bullets become palatable. (No criminal charges were filed against Wilson.) If one concedes that Lucca was similarly endowed, assertions that the unarmed teen posed a threat to gun-toting sheriff’s deputies — despite video evidence to the contrary — is plausible enough for Krickovich to gamble on investigators siding with him.

In a sense, Thursday was a predictable outcome of asking an institution whose job is violence to escalate. Lucca and Cruz — or Lucca and anyone who seeks to harm police officers, really — exist on polar ends of most realistic threat spectra, but separating them is of secondary concern to those convinced that safety means reflexively treating more people like the latter. Krickovich banked on this ambiguity. Racism likely helped rationalize his response, despite it transpiring in a community whose administrators, in the past, sought to reduce disparities. Indeed, it is hard to believe that he and LaCerra would have treated a white child the same way they did Lucca. But when an assault like Thursday’s is permissible as long as officers claim they are afraid — and can convince investigators that their response was consistent with what others would have done in their place — then the bigger issue is more fundamental than whether they were white and the victim black. The problem, one of many, is the public and institutional instinct to let the worst set the standard rather than remain outliers. Humane rules of engagement evaporate where every suspect is a demon. And whatever the outcome of the department’s investigation, it is worth asking if that is a reasonable price to pay for feeling safe.

 

Zak Cheney-Rice, NYMag., “Broward County Deputies Assaulted a Black Teen. But ‘Accountability’ Is Not Enough.”, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/04/broward-county-deputy-beats-black-teen.html

Broward Police Officer who Assaulted 15 Year-Old Suspended From Force

 

Cellphones have been an instrumental tool in capturing alleged incidents of police brutality. This weekend, there were multiple videos taken of a Broward County, Florida police officer slamming a young black teenager’s head into the ground.

As the videos spread around social media, there were numerous calls for the officer involved to be fired. Deputy Christopher Krickovich has now been ordered to surrender his gun and badge as he is being suspended while the incident is investigated.

The arrest of 15 year-old Luca drew attention from Broward County’s Mayor, Mark Bogen. Bogen tweeted, “The behavior of these BSO deputies is outrageous & unacceptable. The officer who jumped the student, punched & banged his head should be fired. I have a problem with the deputy who threw him to the ground after he pepper sprayed him. He could’ve easily arrested him after the spray.”

Mayor Mark Bogen@mark_bogen

The behavior of these BSO deputies is outrageous & unacceptable The officer who jumped the student, punched & banged his head should be fired. I have a problem with the deputy who threw him to the ground after he pepper sprayed him He could’ve easily arrested him after the spray.

South Florida Sun Sentinel

@SunSentinel

Broward Sheriff’s Office investigates after video shows deputies pepper-spraying and punching teens https://trib.al/7OTBElf 

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Bishop Talbert Swann also weighed in, writing, “Demand that Broward Sheriff, Gregory Tony drop all the charges against Delucca, fire and arrest the racist, rogue officers that used excessive force and brutalized an innocent 15 year old boy.”

Bishop Talbert Swan

@TalbertSwan

Here’s another angle that shows @browardsheriff’s deputy pepper spraying unarmed Black boy, Lucca, who posed no threat. He then slammed his head into the concrete, arrested him & charged him with ASSAULTING the cops.

This is brutality.

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Bishop Talbert Swan

@TalbertSwan

Demand that @browardsheriff Gregory Tony drop all the charges against Delucca, fire and arrest the racist, rogue officers that used excessive force and brutalized an innocent 15 year old boy.

Sign the Petition! http://chng.it/5KhTfFXw  pic.twitter.com/gR4sU4WZaN

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Golden State Warriors’ Coach and frequent Trump critic, Steve Kerr, also gave his opinion. “What the hell is wrong with our country? This is insane yet routine. So demoralizing,” wrote the Coach.

Steve Kerr

@SteveKerr

What the hell is wrong with our country? This is insane yet routine. So demoralizing.

Keith Boykin

@keithboykin

This is police brutality. https://twitter.com/TalbertSwan/status/1119612441049075713 

37.6K people are talking about this

Broward’s Sheriff, Gregory Tony is doing his best to manage the situation. Talbert Swann writes, “Gregory Tony held a meeting with Black Elected Officials & emphasizes a commitment to transparency & accountability.” The 15 year old boy involved in the incident is still facing charges.

 

TODD NEIKIRK, https://hillreporter.com/broward-police-officer-who-assaulted-15-year-old-suspended-from-force-32157

Violent ‘Bacon Dispute’ at Georgia IHOP Raises Questions About Police’s Use of Force

“Reducing it to bacon is inflammatory, discriminatory and offensive,” said defense attorney Sarah Flack.

Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images

Bettina Makalintal, Apr 3 2019

When local news stations picked up a story about a police altercation at a Georgia IHOP earlier this week, they wrote that a lack of bacon was to blame for the physical fight between the Marietta Police Department and local chef Renardo Lewis early Sunday morning. “Bacon Dispute At Marietta IHOP Lands Man In Jail,” wrote Patch; according to WSB-TV, Marietta police officers were called after Lewis allegedly “threatened to kill everyone inside over bacon.”

“Dispatchers advised officers that an employee from IHOP called 911 and stated a customer ‘had made threats, including gesturing like he (the suspect) had a gun,’” the Marietta PD wrote on Facebook. According to the department, Lewis’s wife had told them the issue “was not about threats, but that she needed IHOP employee names and their telephone numbers because she was upset they did not have bacon.” The department wrote that both Lewis and his wife became “more and more agitated” as the police gathered statements, and that they tried to place Lewis in handcuffs.

In the violent altercation that followed—which was caught on video and circulated on Facebook and Instagram—Lewis was allegedly “tased, punched, and kicked by up to six Marietta police officers,” 11Alive reported yesterday. According to Lewis’s attorney Sarah Flack, turning the fight into a “bacon issue” dismisses the department’s use of force.

“Marietta Police said it’s about bacon. This case has nothing to do with bacon,” Flack said in a press conference. “Reducing it to bacon is inflammatory, discriminatory and offensive.” (MUNCHIES has reached out to Flack for comment, but has not yet received a response.)

In response to the video, the Marietta PD has defended its use of force, claiming that officers were responding to a call that a customer “had made threats and motioned like he had a handgun.” The department further claimed that Lewis had attempted to strangle an officer while resisting arrest, which was why Tasers and punches were used. “While the video may seem shocking to some, we are very proud that all officers used only the force necessary to place Mr. Lewis in handcuffs,” the department added.

The Marietta PD characterized the fight as a “wrestling match,” but according to Flack, “It was a mob-style attack of five officers on one man. He never resisted.”

In a statement to WSB-TV, IHOP’s corporate office stated, “Our top priority is the safety of our guests and team members. […] The franchisee’s team quickly followed protocol and alerted authorities. We’re grateful to the police for their quick response and for keeping the guests and team members in the restaurant safe.”

Flack is pushing not only for the charges to be dropped, but also an investigation into the Marietta PD’s use of force, and an apology from IHOP. As Lewis’s wife told 11Alive, “He doesn’t even eat pork.”

Bettina Makalintal, Apr 3 2019, Vice.com, “Violent ‘Bacon Dispute’ at Georgia IHOP Raises Questions About Police’s Use of Force”,  https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/03/28/fairfield-cop-fired-for-sexual-misconduct-at-golf-course-was-called-creepy-joe/

Video Showing NYPD Violently Arresting Delivery Worker Contradicts Police Account

nypdpar031919.jpeg
A still of the surveillance footage showing three police officers on top of Christopher Parham (Brooklyn Defender Services)

In September of last year, 19-year-old delivery worker Christopher Parham was inside a Williamsburg grocery store picking up ingredients for his boss when he was approached by a plainclothes police officer. The officer, Lieutenant Henry Daverin, claimed he’d seen the teenager driving recklessly and without a helmet on an illegal scooter. During the confrontation, Daverin and Officer Tyler Howe would later state, Parham pushed an officer’s hand, “violently resisted” arrest, and sparked a public disturbance that “caused a crowd to gather.” He was taken to the police precinct, where he allegedly lied about his identity.

On Monday, the Brooklyn Defender Services released surveillance footage of the incident that appears to contradict several aspects of the NYPD’s narrative. While the arrest report states that cops did not use force against Parham, the video shows three officers tackling the delivery worker to the ground. And contrary to their statement that a “a crowd of about 30 persons gathered” around the suspect — thereby triggering a disorderly conduct charge again Parham — the footage shows just a handful of people on the corner at the time of the arrest.

Still, the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez plans to prosecute the case next month, bringing eight separate charges against the now 20-year-old Parham. The slate of allegations includes four misdemeanors, and carries the possibility of one year in prison. He also faces three charges related to his employer’s delivery scooter: unauthorized use of a vehicle, motorcycle helmet violation, and reckless driving.

According to Maryanne Kaishian, a staff attorney at the Brooklyn Defender Services, the video proves that the NYPD’s description of events cannot be trusted.

“The police lied about everything that happened,” she told Gothamist. “From the very beginning, when they said he was driving recklessly, to the very end, when they alleged that they never used force.”

She says her client, who has no arrest record, was essentially jumped by the officers, tased without warning and beaten so badly that he was dazed for hours afterwards. According to the criminal complaint against Parham, when he was asked his name and date of birth at the precinct, he identified himself as “Christopher Perez,” and said he couldn’t remember his birthday — a consequence of the severe concussion he was later diagnosed with, according to his attorneys. As a result of the identification, he was charged with a misdemeanor “false personation.”

The surveillance footage also contradicts the NYPD’s justification for the police stop. In the arrest report, officers claimed they were at the intersection of Flushing Avenue and Humboldt Street when they “observed persons in a crosswalk move out of way to avoid being struck” by Parham. But video shows the delivery worker entering the crosswalk and parking his scooter without any pedestrian reaction.

Discovery materials obtained by Parham’s attorneys, meanwhile, suggest that the cops initially believed the scooter had been stolen, and were only persuaded otherwise after speaking with the owner of La Nortena 2, the nearby Mexican restaurant where Parham was employed (he’s currently a student).

Scott Hechinger

@ScottHech

Client was 19 y/o now 20. Working at La Nortena Restaurant as a delivery driver using the restaurant’s motorized scooter. His boss sent him to the grocery store to pick up shrimp, onions & avocados. Here he is parking the scooter & walking inside. Minutes before assault.

Embedded video

Scott Hechinger

@ScottHech

Seconds after he walks into grocery store, he’s followed in by a plain clothed officer. Wearing a “Don’t tread on me” shirt. Outside, a group of officers gather. pic.twitter.com/X3jsyCWEFI

Embedded video

227 people are talking about this

“They see a young person without a helmet driving a scooter and it’s grounds for them to initiate a conversation and rack up an arrest,” Kaishian told Gothamist. “It’s low-hanging fruit to them.”

As Mayor Bill de Blasio’s crackdown on e-bikes has continued to target delivery workers rather than the businesses that rely on the workers and their vehicles, the mayor has faced growing criticism for an enforcement framework seen by many as hypocritical. While the e-bikes traditionally used by delivery workers remain prohibited under the motorized scooter law, Citi Bike has expanded its fleet of pedal-assist e-bikes, and local officials have recently taken meetings with representatives of venture-capital-backed e-scooter companies like Bird and Lime.

Meanwhile, the moped-like vehicle used by Parham and many other delivery workers presents its own grey area: some certified models of “limited use motorcycles” can be registered with the DMV, but many others cannot, and it’s often unknown to workers whether their employers have received the proper registration. The technical differences in certification, along with the apparent confusion over the administrative code and de Blasio’s directives, has allowed cops to take a kitchen sink approach to applying the scooter law against delivery workers, according to some observers.

“They get ticketed for things such as riding an unregistered vehicle, not having vehicle insurance, or not having a driver’s license,” said Do Lee, a member of the #DeliverJusticeCoalition who wrote his PhD thesis in environmental psychology on delivery cyclists at the CUNY Graduate Center. “Many immigrant delivery workers have told us stories where the police charged or ticketed them for things that never happened.”

It is also relevant, says Kaishian, that Lieutenant Daverin, who appears to be wearing a “Don’t Tread On Me” t-shirt in the video, has a history of alleged brutality. According to a new police misconduct tracker released by the Legal Aid Society, he has been named in at least ten previous lawsuits, resulting in taxpayer-funded settlements of at least $77,500. In one federal case — which the city settled for $30,000 — Daverin allegedly oversaw the discriminatory arrest of a motorist, who was later falsely charged with resisting arrest.

“This kind of abuse happens all the time, we just happen to have footage in this case,” said Kaishian. “The word of a police officer is given more credence in our justice system, and so they don’t bother [telling the truth]. These officers were fully confident that they would never be held accountable.”

Sergeant Jessica McRorie, a spokesperson for the NYPD, told Gothamist that “the matter was immediately investigated, and it was determined no misconduct was committed” on the part of the officers. She did not respond to follow up questions about inconsistencies in the police report.

A spokesperson for the Brooklyn DA’s office said they were “looking into this incident.”

 

“Video Showing NYPD Violently Arresting Delivery Worker Contradicts Police Account”, http://gothamist.com/2019/03/19/surveillance_video_appears_to_under.php

The Torture Machine: Flint Taylor on Chicago Police Brutality from Fred Hampton to Today

MARCH 20, 2019
GUESTS

We look at the Chicago Police Department’s long history of violence against African Americans, from the murder of Black Panther Fred Hampton to the reign of torture overseen by commander Jon Burge. The brutality of the Chicago police force is laid bare in a new book by leading civil rights lawyer Flint Taylor. It’s called “The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago.” The book exposes decades of corruption and cover-ups in the Chicago Police Department. We speak with Flint Taylor, who has represented survivors of police brutality in Chicago for nearly half a century.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we spend the rest of the hour in Chicago, where the Illinois Supreme Court has let stand a less than 7-year prison sentence for former police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was found guilty last year of second-degree murder for killing African-American teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014. The Illinois Supreme Court denied a request by the state’s attorney general to resentence Van Dyke on Tuesday. Van Dyke, who is white, was found guilty on 16 counts of aggravated battery—one count for each of the 16 bullets he fired at McDonald. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul petitioned the state Supreme Court to vacate Van Dyke’s second-degree murder sentence and instead impose a sentence on each of the 16 counts. If the petition had been granted, Van Dyke could have faced to up 96 years in prison.

The news that Van Dyke will not be resentenced has sparked criticism throughout Chicago. The city’s mayoral candidates, who are both African-American women, have spoken out against the decision. Lori Lightfoot, the front-runner in the race, tweeted, quote, “Today’s ruling is the latest disappointment in the Jason Van Dyke sentencing, and a sad reminder of the work we must do to create a system that is free of institutional racism and truly holds police accountable for their misconduct, including criminal acts. We cannot build trust between police and the communities they serve if officers who commit crimes are not held to the same standards as [other defendants].” Lightfoot and her opponent, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, both have vowed to reform Chicago’s Police Department. Van Dyke is the first Chicago police officer to be sentenced for an on-duty shooting in half a century.

AMY GOODMAN: The decision is the latest in the struggle by activists, lawyers, journalists to hold the Chicago Police Department accountable for its long history of violence against the city’s citizens, particularly African-American men. Much of that history is chronicled in a new book by a leading Chicago lawyer fighting police torture. The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago exposes decades of corruption and cover-ups in the Chicago Police Department, from the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and Mark Clark to the reign of torture overseen by Commander Jon Burge. Under Burge’s reign, from 1972 to ’91, more than 200 people, most of them African-American, were tortured with tactics including electric shock and suffocation.

We’re joined now by the book’s author, Flint Taylor, an attorney with People’s Law Office who has represented survivors of police torture in Chicago for more than 25 years.

Flint, welcome back to Democracy Now! Why did you name your book The Torture Machine?

FLINT TAYLOR: Well, thank you, Amy and Juan. It’s a pleasure to be back with you.

I named it The Torture Machine for two different but related reasons. First of all is rather obvious. On the cover, the torture machine, that was the electric shock box that the notorious Commander Jon Burge and his men used on many African-American suspects over that 20-year period that you just mentioned. But also “the torture machine” refers to Chicago’s machine, the notorious political machine, often known as the Daley machine and the Democratic machine, here in the city, which not only countenanced this torture, covered it up, but also was involved at the highest levels of the police department and, yes, the State’s Attorney’s Office, when Richard M. Daley was the state’s attorney of Cook County—were involved in this conspiracy, this scandal, that has gone on for so many decades in this city.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Flint, I want to, first, congratulate you on the book. It is really a riveting account. It’s almost a forensic analysis of decades of collusion between judges, politicians, prosecutors and the police to basically engage in systemic human rights violation. But you start the book with an incident that, for many young people today, is not even part of history, but it’s not often covered history. And you make the statement that the killing of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark really was a seminal moment in the development of Chicago, in the modern history of Chicago. And I’m wondering if you could first give us a sense of why you believe that’s so, and then we’re going to do a clip of a documentary, from The Weather Underground, about that, the house where Fred Hampton was killed.

FLINT TAYLOR: Yes. On December 4th, 1969, 14 Chicago police officers working under the control of the state’s attorney of Cook County—at that time, Edward Hanrahan—raided a West Side apartment where Black Panthers were sleeping. And one of those Black Panthers was the chairman of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton, a charismatic young leader, who was targeted not only by the police, but by, it turns out, the FBI. And that raid, which was covered up, was claimed to be at first a shootout, was later shown to be a total shoot-in. And then, over the years, as we and others were able to litigate a case in federal court, we were able to show not only that this was a vicious, racist attack on the Panthers and its leadership, where two men were killed and many others wounded, but it was part and parcel of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, the counterintelligence program devised and implemented by J. Edgar Hoover over the years, which in the late ’60s targeted the Black Panther Party, and specifically Fred Hampton in Chicago, and, in fact, that the raid on the apartment was part of this COINTELPROprogram.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, of course, you make the point in your book that that was the beginning of the resistance, mass resistance, of the black community, that eventually led to the election of Harold Washington as the first black mayor of Chicago. But I want to turn to the clip from the documentary The Weather Underground about the murder of Black Panther Fred Hampton nearly 50 years ago, on December 4th, 1969. This clip begins with Fred Hampton.

FRED HAMPTON: So we say—we always say in the Black Panther Party that they can do anything they want to to us. We might not be back. I might be in jail. I might be anywhere. But when I leave, you’ll remember I said, with the last words on my lips, that I am a revolutionary.

WALTER CRONKITE: In Chicago today, two Black Panthers were killed as police raided a Panther stronghold. Police arrived at Fred Hampton’s West Side apartment at 4:45 this morning. They had a search warrant authorizing them to look for illegal weapons. The State’s Attorney’s Office says that Hampton and another man were killed in the 15-minute gun battle which followed.

BOBBY RUSH: The pigs murdered Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton while he lay in bed. Their lies, their oinking to the people won’t—can’t bear up to the evidence that we have that they murdered our deputy chairman in cold blood as he lay in his bed asleep.

BERNARDINE DOHRN: The Panther Party organized tours of the apartment that they were in when they were murdered, and I went with a group of people from the SDS national office, which is a couple of blocks away.

BLACK PANTHER TOUR GUIDE: Don’t touch nothing. Don’t move nothing, because we want to keep everything just the way it is.

BERNARDINE DOHRN: It was a scene of carnage. It was a scene of war. You see this door ridden with bullets, not little bullet holes, but shattered.

BLACK PANTHER TOUR GUIDE: The room where first brother Mark Clark was murdered at.

BERNARDINE DOHRN: You walk through a living room into the bedroom, and there’s a mattress soaked in his blood, red blood down the floor.

SKIP ANDREW: Anyone who went through that apartment and examined the evidence that was remaining there could come to only one conclusion, and that is that Fred Hampton, 21 years old and a member of a militant, well-known militant group, was murdered in his bed probably as he lay asleep.

THOMAS STRIETER: This blatant act of legitimatized murder strips all credibility from law enforcement. In the context of other acts against militant blacks in recent months, it suggests an official policy of systematic repression.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was from the documentary The Weather Underground, directed by Sam Green and Bill Siegel. And so, Flint, the reality was, as you document in your book, that this was actually a direct assassination and that there was a long struggle, on your part, to—because you were there. You were able to get to the house the very day that Hampton was killed. Could you talk about this conspiracy to kill one of the rising radical leaders of the black community?

FLINT TAYLOR: Well, we see now—and it was uncovered during our trial in the ’70s—that the COINTELPRO program targeted black liberation organizations and leaders. And they specifically named targets—Dr. King, Stokely Carmichael, Rap Brown, Elijah Muhammad—and pointed to Malcolm X, as well. And as the Panthers rose and became powerful, first in Oakland and later in Chicago—as you can see from the clip what a charismatic, young leader, at 21, Fred Hampton was—Hoover and his people focused on the Black Panther Party and, specifically in Chicago, on Fred Hampton.

They had an informant in the Black Panther Party by the name of William O’Neal. He sketched out a floor plan that showed where Hampton would be sleeping. They went to the apartment. They supplied that floor plan to the police—the FBI did. They went to the apartment in the early-morning hours. And Fred was asleep. It appeared that he had been drugged by O’Neal or some other agent. And he was murdered in his bed.

Over the years, we uncovered documents that showed this floor plan. That was all covered up, as well. It showed that the FBI took credit for this raid as part of its COINTELPRO program. And it showed even that O’Neal, after the raid, was given by Hoover and the people in Chicago a $300 bonus, what we later called the “30 pieces of silver” for the informant, O’Neal, for setting up the raid. So, he was receiving from Hoover a bonus for the success of the raid at the same time he was serving as a pallbearer in Fred Hampton’s funeral.

AMY GOODMAN: Flint Taylor, you pursued this case civilly for 13 years. What came out of it?

FLINT TAYLOR: Well, a lot of what I’ve just mentioned came out of it. The narrative shifted over the years, thanks to the community, thanks to the Panthers and thanks to the lawsuit that we filed. And as you could hear from the clip, the position that the police took—and they thought they were going to get away with scot-free—was that this was a shootout, that these were vicious Black Panthers, all of that. Well, because we and the Panthers went to that apartment, we were able to show that it was a shoot-in. We were able to change the narrative to the fact that it was an unjustified and violent shoot-in by the police. But over the years, as we were able to join the FBI in the case, we were able to uncover these FBIdocuments that showed that, yes, it was not just a murder, it was not just a shoot-in, but it was an assassination. It was a political assassination straight from Washington and the FBI.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Flint, very shortly after the murder of Fred Hampton, you got involved in another case of the Wilson brothers, and which began the uncovering of the Jon Burge scandal, that, again, would take you decades, really, to finally get some measure of justice. Could you talk about that, the Wilson case?

FLINT TAYLOR: Yes. The Wilson case arose in February of 1982. Two white police officers were shot and killed. The two black perpetrators had escaped. And the city of Chicago, under Jane Byrne and Police Superintendent Brzeczek, set out on the most vicious and terroristic manhunt in the history of the city. They terrorized the black community. They kicked in doors. They dragged people out of their houses. If they thought that they had some information about the killings, they tortured them. They tortured them with suffocation. They tortured them with all kinds of medieval types of torture. They finally found the two people who the eyewitness identified as the persons who were involved in the crime. And the person who was identified as the shooter was Andrew Wilson.

Andrew Wilson was taken back to the police headquarters on the South Side of Chicago. And this notorious commander, who at that time was a lieutenant in charge of the manhunt, by the name of Jon Burge, led a torture of Andrew Wilson that included electric shock with the torture machine, that is mentioned and depicted in my book, and suffocation with a bag. They handcuffed him across an old, ribbed steam radiator and electric-shocked him so that he was burned across his chest. And they also burned him with cigarettes, beat him and got a confession from him.

This came out at that time, but nobody really cared. The state’s attorney of Cook County, Richard Daley, was informed specifically by a doctor and the police superintendent about this torture, and he chose to do nothing about it. Because he did nothing about it, Burge was able to, in the next 10 years, torture another 75 individuals—all African-American men.

And a few years after that, Andrew Wilson, who had been sentenced to death, filed a pro se complaint in federal court challenging his torture and suing Burge. That’s how we got involved. During his trial, an anonymous police source, who we later dubbed as “Deep Badge,” started to give me information that laid out exactly the map of what had happened, the systemic nature of the torture, the fact that Daley and his surrogates were involved, that the police superintendent, that the mayor were all involved.

And we followed that map, basically, for the next 20, 30 years, even as we sit here today, to uncover evidence that supported the idea that this was a systemic torture. This was something that sent people to death row. This was something that convicted innocent people. And, ultimately, all of this led to Burge’s firing. It led to, many, many years later, his conviction for obstruction of justice for lying about the torture. And, of course, it led to the remarkable reparations that the city of Chicago granted to the survivors of police torture and their families here a couple of years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Flint Taylor, we’re going to break and then come back to this conversation, and we’ll also be joined by Lilia Fernández. This is Democracy Now!Flint Taylor, attorney with People’s Law Office, known as the PLO, has represented survivors of police torture in Chicago for nearly half a century. His new book, The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago. When we come back, Lilia Fernández will join us, as well. Stay with us.

 

MARCH 20, 2019, democracynow.com, “The Torture Machine: Flint Taylor on Chicago Police Brutality from Fred Hampton to Today”, https://www.democracynow.org/2019/3/20/the_torture_machine_flint_taylor_on

Cop probed after hitting woman during St. Patrick’s Day melee

By Joshua Rhett Miller, March 18, 2019 | 9:47am | 

A Pennsylvania police sergeant is under investigation after a video showed him hitting a woman in the face with a stun gun during a St. Patrick’s Day street brawl.

A 10-second clip posted to Twitter on Saturday shows an unidentified Chester police sergeant striking Dominique Difiore, 20, of Brookhaven, with what appears to be a Taser as cops tried to control several people who were fighting in the street.

Police Chief James Nolan said Difiore struck the sergeant first but that cannot be seen on the footage.

“A partial video of the event is circulating on various social media platforms,” Nolan said in a statement. “The incident, the video, and level of force used in connection with the event are all currently under investigation.”

The fight took place in the 800 block of East 16th Street at about 5 p.m. Saturday. Officers responding to the scene were told a “riot” had broken out after several people were turned away from a nearby house party on East 15th Street, Nolan said.

Jaylene Westfall, 19, of Levittown, assaulted one of the residents at the home after being turned away, prompting the partygoers and residents to lock themselves inside the home. But Westfall and other suspects managed to kick in the home’s front door and assaulted several people once inside, Nolan said.

In all, four people were arrested and charged with aggravated assault and alcohol-related offenses. In addition to Westfall and Difiore, they were identified as Shawn Connelly, of Philadelphia, and Tess Herman, 20, of Springfield.

Investigators are still looking into whether other people will be charged in connection with the incident.

Sources told CBS Philly that the fight happened during a Widener University pub crawl. But university officials told the station that it was not a “university-sanctioned event” and said the four people arrested were not students at the school.

“It was just very hectic,” said Zachary Whalen, a senior at Widener. “I would say probably 30, 40 people were just running around here, beating the crap out of each other.”

Several witnesses said they saw the officer use his Taser on Difiore once she fell to the ground.

“I was shocked,” witness Latine Bethea told CBS Philly. “I was really shocked. I couldn’t believe a man hit a female like that.”

One man who lives nearby said he thought the officer’s blow to Difiore was a clear example of excessive police force.

“I think it was ridiculous to do something like that, no matter how frustrated you get,” neighbor Matt Pfaff said. “They’re trained to do better.”

A message seeking comment from Chester police early Monday was not immediately returned.

 

Joshua Rhett Miller, March 18, 2019, NYPost, “Cop probed after hitting woman during St. Patrick’s Day melee”, https://nypost.com/2019/03/18/cop-probed-after-hitting-woman-during-st-patricks-day-melee/

East NY Precinct Paid $9M In Police Misconduct Suits, Data Shows

East New York’s 75th precinct is the city’s most sued and has paid more money in settlements than any other, new data shows.

By Kathleen Culliton, Patch Staff | 
One Brooklyn precinct faced more misconduct lawsuits than any other in the city, data shows.
One Brooklyn precinct faced more misconduct lawsuits than any other in the city, data shows. (Shutterstock)
EAST NEW YORK, BROOKLYN — An East New York father, framed for a kidnapping he did not commit and forced to spend 16 years in prison, is just one of almost 100 people who have sued the 75th Precinct since 2015, a new database shows.The 75th precinct at 1000 Sutter Ave. is the most sued precinct in New York City with 91 federal lawsuits filed since 2015 and, at $9.1 million, has paid out the most money in settlements, according to the Legal Aid Society’s new database, CAPstat.

CAPstat, launched Wednesday, provides users access to data culled from federal civil rights lawsuits and disciplinary summaries provided by BuzzFeed with the hope of improving transparency within the NYPD, Legal Aid Society officials said.

“We join a national movement including fellow defenders, advocates, and community members to shed much needed daylight on police departments,” said Cynthia Conti-Cook, Legal Aid staff attorney.

“CAPstat will help New Yorkers gain a more thorough understanding of lawsuits filed against the NYPD for misconduct and will help the public hold the NYPD accountable.”

The data shows that East New York’s precinct surpasses every other in the city for the number of police misconduct lawsuits in federal civil court and the cost of payouts, CAPstat data shows.

The second-most sued precinct, the 71st precinct in Crown Heights, faced just 29 lawsuits, less than a third of the 75’s, in the same period. Bushwick’s 83rd precinct came second for settlement costs of $530,000, or just 6 percent of what the East New York precinct paid.

Reginald Connor, the East New York father framed by police for the kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old girl Jennifer Negron in 1992, claimed most of that money when he sued the 75th precinct in 2014.

Connor was granted nearly $8 million after spending 16 years in jail and being forced to register as a sex offender, court records show.

In their complaint, Connor’s attorneys noted the 75th precinct became “one of the most notorious examples of unchecked police corruption and misconduct in the City’s history” in 1992, when 75th precinct Officer Michael Dowd was busted for running a massive drug dealing operation out of the precinct.

Dowd’s arrest led the city to establish the Mollen Commission, which spent almost two years investigating NYPD corruption in precincts across New York.

The commission found “a system that had virtually collapsed years ago,” attorneys wrote.

According to Connor’s complaint, an NYPD sergeant admitted that of 750 murder investigations he supervised at the 75th Precinct between 1992 and 1994, only one was done correctly.

 

Kathleen Culliton, Patch Staff | “East NY Precinct Paid $9M In Police Misconduct Suits, Data Shows”, https://patch.com/new-york/brownsville/east-ny-precinct-paid-9m-police-misconduct-suits-data-shows

Benny Warr, awarded $1 in police brutality case, seeks new federal trial

Gary Craig, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Published 8:07 a.m. ET March 9, 2019

Benny Warr, who received an award of $1 after a trial in which he claimed he was brutalized and seriously injured by police, is seeking a new trial.

In court papers filed this week, Warr’s attorney, Charles Burkwit, maintains that the jury’s verdict in the civil trial ran counter to the evidence. The jury largely exonerated three officers accused of misconduct and abuse, though did conclude that one of the officers, Anthony Liberatore, used excessive force in a May 2013 arrest of Warr.

The jury then awarded Warr $1.

Also, Burkwit noted in his court papers, the jury decided that Liberatore should be subjected to “punitive damages” — typically an award designed to punish an individual who committed a wrongdoing — but then set the award amount at no dollars.

That “award was inconsistent and against the weight of the evidence,” Burkwit wrote.

City attorney Spencer Ash has responded in court papers that the jury’s verdict aligned with the evidence and that jurors “did not buy (Warr’s) conspicuously false narrative.”

The court salvos largely echo the conflicting testimony from the recent civil trial in federal court, with Warr, who was in a wheelchair which was pushed over when he was arrested, contending that he suffered serious injuries from a beating inflicted upon him by police.

Meanwhile, city officials maintain that Warr initiated the conflict that led to his arrest, tussled with police, and had suffered earlier injuries in life that he now wants to claim happened during the physical confrontation.

Warr, who lost part of his leg when he was a child and has worn a prosthesis since, testified that he was simply waiting for a bus when he was knocked from his wheelchair by police the evening of May 1, 2013. He maintained that he was severely beaten and now suffers from post-traumatic stress.

Evidence showed that he was kneed in the abdomen and hit in the head with an “elbow strike” by police, but police and city officials said the response was proper given Warr’s aggressive response to an attempt to arrest him on a disorderly conduct charge.

Police alleged that Warr was combative and possibly trying to inflame an angry crowd when they arrested him. They said he that he punched them, and continued to fight after he fell to the ground from his wheelchair.

He was arrested on disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges; a judge later agreed to what is known as an “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal,” leading to the eventual dismissal of the charges after Warr was accused of no more crimes over a six-month period.

In his request for a new trial, Burkwit argues that:

• Medical evidence showed that Warr suffered fractured ribs from his arrest.

• His injuries complicated his ability to now walk with a prosthesis, which he could do beforehand.

• Warr will need years of medical treatment, and a jury decision to award no compensatory damages is not consistent with a determination that Liberatore did use excessive force.

• Attorney Ash committed misconduct during the trial that impacted the jury’s decision, including showing the jury medical records that were not supposed to be admitted at trial; briefly showing a video clip that also had been precluded; and maligning an expert who testified for Warr as being “down the line of doctors.”

In his response, Ash answered that:

• Warr, who previously struggled with drug addiction, had a lifetime of “chronic degenerative medical conditions” and the rib fractures may have been old injuries.

• Warr claimed his head was “punted like a football” in the arrest yet showed no outward signs of head injury afterward and clearly talked lucidly with a witness who was there.

• Warr “tried to instigate” the altercation to have a friend then record it on a cellphone.

• Any errors made by Ash during the trial were resolved quickly by instructions to the jury from the judge and were irrelevant when weighed against the bounty of other evidence.

 

Gary Craig, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, March 9, 2019, “Benny Warr, awarded $1 in police brutality case, seeks new federal trial”, https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2019/03/09/benny-warr-police-brutality-case-seeks-new-trial/3103338002/

How A Long-Forgotten Act Of Police Brutality Transformed A Federal Judge, U.S. President And Civil Rights In America17:57

"Unexampled Courage" by Richard Gergel. (Courtesy of Sarah Crichton Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
“Unexampled Courage” by Richard Gergel. (Courtesy of Sarah Crichton Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

After WWII, 900,000 African-American soldiers made their way back home.

One of them, Sgt. Isaac Woodard, was on his way back to his hometown in South Carolina, when he was ordered off a greyhound bus over a dispute about bathroom breaks.

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Triple-deckers along Edgewood Street in Dorchester (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Once off, a local police chief beat him so viciously he was permanently and completely blinded in both eyes — all while still in uniform.

The story of his blinding — and what came after — is told in the new book, “Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring.”

“Unexampled Courage” takes a deep dive into how a long-forgotten act of police brutality changed a federal judge, a sitting president and the course of civil rights in America.

Guest

Richard Gergel, U.S. district court judge in South Carolina, and author of “Unexampled Courage: the blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring.

Book Excerpt: “Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring.”

By Richard Gergel

INTRODUCTION: A COLLISION OF TWO WORLDS

THE UNITED STATES emerged from World War II in ascendancy, having conquered Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. Looking over a war-ravaged world, American leaders sought to remake foreign governments in America’s own image, as democracies committed to individual liberty and human rights. But beneath the veneer of America’s grand self-image was a stark reality: African Americans residing in the old Confederacy lived in a twilight world between slavery and freedom. They no longer had masters, but they did not enjoy the rights of a free people. Black southerners were routinely denied the right to vote, segregated physically from the dominant white society as a matter of law, and relegated to the margins of American prosperity.

African Americans living in other regions of the country faced their own racial challenges. This gaping chasm between the ideal world envisioned by white Americans and the real world experienced by black Americans represented, as the Swedish economist and social scientist Gunnar Myrdal put it, “a moral lag in the development of the nation” and “a problem in the heart of America.”

Seen from today’s perspective, the American triumph over Jim Crow segregation and disenfranchisement might seem to have been inevitable, the collapse of morally indefensible practices wholly inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. But in 1945, with southern state governments resolutely committed to the racial status quo and the federal government largely a passive bystander, there was no obvious path to resolving this great American dilemma. Something had to be done, but what, and by whom?

On February 12, 1946, Sergeant Isaac Woodard, a decorated African American soldier, was beaten and blinded in Batesburg, South Carolina, by the town’s police chief on the day of his discharge from the U.S. Army and while still in uniform. The brutality and injustice of Woodard’s treatment encapsulated the angst and outrage of the nation’s 900,000 returning black veterans, who felt their service in defense of American liberty was not appreciated. Soon, protests and mass meetings in response to the Woodard incident were held in black communities across America. Civil rights leaders demanded federal action to hold the police officer accountable for Woodard’s brutal treatment and to protect the rights of the nation’s black citizens from racial violence. Demands for action soon reached the doorstep of the new president, Harry S. Truman, and placed him in the crosswinds of Roosevelt’s disparate New Deal coalition, which included southern segregationists and newly emerging black voters in critical swing states outside the South. Although counseled by his staff and political allies to stay away from divisive civil rights issues, Truman responded to the Woodard blinding by directing his excessively cautious Department of Justice to act. Within days, the department charged Lynwood Shull, the police chief of Batesburg, with criminal civil rights violations and began the process of establishing the first presidential committee on civil rights, to address the widespread reports of violence against returning black veterans. Truman’s civil rights committee would, within the year, issue a report recommending a bold civil rights agenda, culminating in Truman’s historic executive order in July 1948 ending segregation in the armed forces of the United States.

The Justice Department’s prosecution of Shull before an all-white jury in the federal district court in Columbia, South Carolina, resulted in the police chief’s quick acquittal. But the jury’s failure to hold the obviously culpable police officer accountable profoundly troubled the presiding judge, J. Waties Waring, and sent him on a personal journey of study and reflection on race and justice in America. Within months following the Shull trial, Waring began issuing landmark civil rights decisions, then unprecedented for a federal district judge in the South. Despite blistering public denunciations, death threats, and attacks on his home, Waring persisted in upholding the rule of law in his Charleston, South Carolina, courtroom, including his 1951 dissent in a school desegregation case, Briggs v. Elliott, in which he declared government-mandated segregation a per se violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Three years later, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court would adopt Waring’s reasoning and language in Brown v. Board of Education, destroying the legal foundation of Jim Crow segregation.

While conducting research for this book, I came across a statement attributed to the legendary civil rights leader Julian Bond in which he asserted that the Isaac Woodard incident ignited the modern civil rights movement. Intrigued, I contacted Bond in September 2014 to hear his explanation of that statement. I shared with him the connection of the Woodard incident to the racial awakening of President Truman and Judge Waring and asked if that was the basis of his statement. Bond explained that while my research tended to confirm his statement, he had meant to express the belief that the tragic circumstances of Woodard’s blinding had inspired a generation of African Americans to action. He then recalled from memory the story of Woodard’s blinding and described a photograph he remembered from his childhood. As Bond described the image, he began to weep openly over the telephone. Composing himself, he apologized for his tears but stated that after all these years “I still weep for this blinded soldier.”

The power of the Isaac Woodard story moved people of goodwill to act in the postwar era and still had the force to move Julian Bond to tears nearly seventy years later. In the end, Woodard’s blinding would open the eyes of many Americans, black and white. This is a story that deserves to be told, with all its pathos, its brutality, and its redemption of the American system of justice.

1.        A TRAGIC DETOUR

AS THE CLOCK struck 7:00 p.m. on August 14, 1945, President Harry S. Truman assembled the White House press corps in the Oval Office. The ebullient president, standing behind his desk, informed the reporters that earlier that afternoon the Japanese government had unconditionally surrendered, bringing an end to World War II. The reporters spontaneously burst into applause and then raced for the door, to share this historic announcement with the rest of the nation. Thousands gathered in Lafayette Square across from the White House to celebrate, and soon there were calls of “We want Truman! We want Truman!” The president came onto the North Portico of the White House to make a few remarks. “This is a great day,” Truman declared, “the day we’ve been waiting for. This is the day for free governments in the world. This is the day that fascism and police government ceases in the world. The great task ahead [is] to restore peace and bring free government to the world.”

Over the ensuing months, millions of American soldiers returned home. Among them were nearly 900,000 African Americans who believed that their service and sacrifices in the defense of American liberty might provide them with their rightful place in America’s “free government.” While black soldiers had been assigned to segregated units and frequently given the most menial tasks, their wartime service afforded them opportunities for education, leadership, and recognition. Many of those serving in Europe had experienced respectful treatment from local citizens and realized the possibility of living in a world where skin color was not the defining characteristic of one’s life. And many returning black soldiers, regardless of where they had served, were resolved to no longer acquiesce in the indignities of racial segregation and disenfranchisement that had characterized their prewar lives.

However, the stark reality was that three-fourths of the black veterans were coming home to communities in the old Confederacy. This was the world of Jim Crow, where black citizens were relegated to the margins of American democracy and expected to be the bootblacks and mudsills of the nation’s economy.

Beginning in the 1890s, southern state and local governments started adopting a vast number of what came to be known as Jim Crow laws mandating segregation in almost every aspect of civic life. These statutes and ordinances were validated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld a Louisiana law requiring racially segregated railway cars. In the years following Plessy, laws were adopted requiring racial separation in factories, parks, public transportation, hospitals, restaurants, and even cemeteries. The clear message was that black citizens were not fit to be in the presence of white people except as maids, laborers, and yardmen.

The widespread adoption of these Jim Crow laws followed the election of a new generation of racial demagogues across the South, a generation bent on defeating the old planter class that had long controlled southern politics and promising the complete subjugation of black citizens. Once they were in power, state legislatures under their control moved swiftly to adopt a vast array of laws to prevent African Americans from voting. Black disenfranchisement was accomplished through an endless variety of tricks and devices denying access to the ballot, including “grandfather clauses,” poll taxes, “understanding clauses,” literacy requirements, all-white party primaries, and old-fashioned terror and intimidation. Despite the protection of the Fifteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged … on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1898 decision of Williams v. Mississippi upheld various Mississippi state constitutional provisions that effectively disenfranchised all black voters in the state.

The clash between the expectations and demands of returning black veterans and the unforgiving racial practices of the Jim Crow South would soon produce widespread conflicts.3 Although the Jim Crow system sought to maintain the separation of the races, encounters between blacks and whites were a daily reality of southern life. Public transportation, including buses, trains, and trolleys, was shared, but strict rules governed where blacks could sit and when they must relinquish their seats to white customers. Many black servicemen and recently demobilized soldiers resented and resisted these Jim Crow practices, and public transportation became a flash point for racial tensions.

In July 1944, Booker T. Spicely, an African American private on leave from Camp Butner, was shot and killed in the nearby town of Durham, North Carolina, by a bus driver after he refused to relinquish his seat to a white passenger. That same month, Second Lieutenant Jack Roosevelt Robinson had a confrontation with a civilian bus driver in Killeen, Texas, near Camp Hood, when he refused an order to move to the back of the bus. Lieutenant Robinson faced a general court-martial over the incident but was acquitted after a full trial. Americans would come to know the young lieutenant three years later by his nickname, Jackie Robinson, when he broke the color line of Major League Baseball.

As African American soldiers in large numbers returned stateside in early 1946, reports of racial incidents on public transportation increased. One soldier stationed at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, refused in February 1946 to sit at the back of the bus as directed by the driver. When the driver ordered him off the bus, the soldier cursed the driver. Several white passengers followed the black serviceman off the bus, attacked him, and broke his jaw. In another incident that year, an African American corporal, Marguerite Nicholson, was arrested in Hamlet, North Carolina, after she refused to move to a segregated car once her train crossed into the segregated South. She was beaten by the local police chief in the course of her arrest, spent two days in jail, and was fined $25. A black airman stationed at a base near Florence, South Carolina, was arrested because he sat next to a white woman on a bus.

On the cool winter night of February 12, 1946, Isaac Woodard Jr. climbed aboard a Greyhound bus in Augusta, Georgia, on his last leg home to Winnsboro, South Carolina, from a journey that had begun in the Philippines several weeks before. Woodard, who was twenty-six years old, had just completed an arduous three-year tour in the U.S. Army, where he served in the Pacific theater, earned a battle star for unloading ships under enemy fire during the New Guinea campaign, and won promotions, ultimately to the rank of sergeant. One of nine children of Sarah and Isaac Woodard Sr., he was born on March 8, 1919, on a farm in Fairfield County, South Carolina. The county was an impoverished, majority-black community in the central part of the state. The Woodard family, as landless sharecroppers, was on the lowest rung of what was essentially a feudal society. The family struggled to subsist, and the Woodard children frequently worked in the fields rather than attend school. Isaac junior quit school at age eleven, after completing the fifth grade, and left home at fifteen in search of relief from the family’s crushing poverty. His mother would later observe that Fairfield County whites, who owned virtually all of the land and wealth of the community, did not “think of a Negro as they do a dog. Looks as if all they want is our work.”

Woodard worked in North Carolina for a number of his early adult years, doing $2-a-day construction jobs, laying railroad tracks, delivering milk for a local dairy, and serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps. As World War II approached and it appeared likely he would be inducted into the armed forces, he returned to Fairfield County and briefly took a job at a local sawmill, Doolittle’s Lumber, while he awaited his induction notice. He worked as a “log turner,” a backbreaking and dangerous job that earned him but $10 a week. Because they faced such dismal employment options, it is not surprising that despite the perils of service in the armed forces, Woodard and many other African Americans residing in the rural South viewed military service as a promising alternative.

Woodard entered service at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, on October 14, 1942, as a private and did his basic training in Bainbridge, Georgia. He was a member of the 429th Port Battalion, which shipped out in October 1944 for New Guinea, where he served as a longshoreman, loading and unloading military ships in the Pacific. The New Guinea campaign was a multiyear battle by the Allies, mostly Australians and Americans, to recapture New Guinea Island from a deeply entrenched Japanese army. The campaign involved some of the most arduous and intense fighting of the war, and all armies suffered significant casualties. The Allies ultimately prevailed through a series of dramatic water landings devised by General Douglas MacArthur.

Isaac Woodard was part of a segregated support unit during the major New Guinea maritime landing operations, and his unit took intense enemy fire and casualties as they performed critical operations. He showed solid leadership and won promotions to technician fifth grade, equivalent to the rank of corporal, and later technician fourth grade, equivalent to the rank of sergeant. He received the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. As the army demobilized, Woodard was given an honorable discharge notice and traveled from Manila to the United States by troopship, arriving in New York on January 15, 1946. After transport by troop train to Camp Gordon, Georgia, he was discharged nearly a month later, on February 12.

Now, a little more than three years after joining the army, Woodard was returning home with sergeant stripes on his sleeve and battle medals on his chest. Although at five feet eight inches and 143 pounds he was not a large and imposing man, his military service as a longshoreman had left him in top physical condition. Upon discharge, he was taking the Greyhound bus from Augusta, Georgia, to Columbia, South Carolina, and ultimately to Winnsboro, the seat of Fairfield County. There he was to be reunited with his wife, Rosa Scruggs Woodard, after several years of separation.

The Greyhound bus on which Woodard traveled was mostly filled with recently demobilized soldiers still in uniform who had been discharged only hours earlier from Camp Gordon. They were in a jovial mood as the bus progressed in the darkness through the small towns on its route—first to Aiken and then to the even smaller communities of Edgefield, Johnston, Ridge Spring, and Batesburg—with black and white soldiers mixing and socializing on the bus in a manner that likely made the few white civilian passengers and the white bus driver uncomfortable. The events that would transpire that fateful evening, both on and off the bus, would later be the subject of great dispute, but what is clear is that Sergeant Woodard displayed a degree of assertiveness and self-confidence that most southern whites were not accustomed to nor prepared to accept.

According to Woodard’s later account, his troubles that evening began with an angry exchange of words with the bus driver, Alton Blackwell. Woodard stated that he approached the driver during what was to be a brief stop to ask if he could step off the bus to relieve himself. Buses during this era did not have restroom facilities, and Greyhound drivers were instructed that any request by a passenger to step off the bus should be accommodated. According to Woodard, Blackwell responded, “Hell, no. God damn it, go back and sit down. I ain’t got time to wait.” Woodard stated that he responded to the driver, “God damn it, talk to me like I am talking to you. I am a man just like you.” He stated that Blackwell then reluctantly told him to “go ahead then and hurry back.” Woodard stepped off the bus and quickly returned without further words with the driver.

Blackwell later described a distinctly different set of events in his encounter with Woodard. He claimed that his disagreement with Woodard arose initially from the soldier’s repeated requests to leave the bus to relieve himself during what were scheduled to be brief stops in various small communities. According to Blackwell, these frequent exits by Woodard put the bus behind schedule for its arrival in Columbia, where many of the passengers were making connections. Blackwell would later claim that he detected the odor of alcohol on Woodard and observed him drinking from a bottle of whiskey and then passing the bottle to a white soldier sitting next to him. As the evening progressed, Blackwell asserted that Woodard became increasingly intoxicated, profane, and disruptive. He claimed that after a white civilian passenger complained to him about Woodard’s conduct, he resolved to have the soldier removed from his bus at the next stop, which was in Batesburg, South Carolina. Apparently then unconcerned about staying on schedule, he exited the bus in search of a police officer to have Woodard removed.

Subsequent investigative interviews and sworn testimony of other passengers on the Augusta-to-Columbia bus offered conflicting accounts regarding Woodard’s behavior on the bus. Two soldiers, one black and one white, gave FBI agents sworn statements that they saw Woodard (and other soldiers) drinking on the bus, but both denied that Woodard was in any way disruptive. One civilian witness, a white woman, later stated that Woodard and a white soldier were sitting together, drinking, and “using language not becoming to a gentleman [that] should not be used in the presence of a lady.” No witness ever corroborated the bus driver’s claim that Woodard left the bus at every stop.

Batesburg was a small town of several thousand people, approximately half black and half white, nestled in the western portion of Lexington County, about thirty miles from Columbia, the state capital. It was an oddly situated town immediately adjacent to another small town and rival, Leesville, with their town business districts only approximately a hundred yards apart. As in most small southern rural communities of that era, whites controlled essentially all aspects of economic and political life, and blacks, disenfranchised and mostly impoverished, lived marginal existences and sought to avoid any conflict with the ruling white establishment.

Batesburg’s two-man police force was headed by Lynwood Shull, then forty years old, who had served as the department’s chief for nearly eight years. Unlike two of his brothers, Shull did not serve in the military during World War II. He was five feet nine inches tall, with blue eyes and gray-streaked brown hair. He tipped the scales at well over two hundred pounds and was sliding into middle-age obesity. He wore his police uniform essentially all the time, changing into a suit only for Sunday morning services at the local Methodist church. The Shull family was politically connected: Lynwood’s father had at one time served in a patronage position as supervisor of a local prison farm. Later, when an investigator from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) began looking into the Woodard incident, local African Americans privately expressed fear of the Shull family, citing incidents of excessive force by Chief Shull against black citizens and abusive actions by his father while running the prison farm.

Blackwell found Chief Shull with a younger officer, Elliot Long, sitting nearby in the town’s one patrol car. He reported that he had two soldiers, one black and one white, who were drunk and disorderly and he wanted them off his bus. The driver then climbed back onto his bus and informed Woodard he had someone who wanted to speak to him. Woodard complied, and as he exited the bus, the driver told Chief Shull that “this soldier has been making a disturbance on the bus.” As Woodard later recounted, he tried to explain to Shull his exchange with the bus driver, in which he was cursed by the driver and told to return to his seat when he asked for the opportunity to relieve himself. Before he could complete his explanation, Woodard stated, Shull removed a baton from a side pocket, struck him across his head, and told him to “shut up.” A black soldier sitting on the bus, Lincoln Miller, later gave the FBI an affidavit stating that he observed an officer “pull a black jack out of his pocket and hit Woodard over the head with it.” A white soldier, Jennings Stroud, told the FBI he saw a policeman “hit the colored fellow a fairly good lick which did not knock him down, but seemed to show the colored fellow [his] authority.”

Shull’s statements and testimony about when he first struck Woodard with his blackjack were inconsistent and would become a focus of attention at later criminal and civil trials. In Shull’s initial interview with FBI agents, he stated he first struck Woodard with his police-issued blackjack after walking a considerable distance from the bus stop and in response to the soldier’s allegedly refusing to continue walking with him to the city jail. Later, he changed his story and admitted that he “may have” struck Woodard with his blackjack at or near the bus stop, as observed by the two soldiers interviewed by the FBI.

Law-enforcement officers during this era routinely carried blackjacks, which were baton-type weapons, generally leather, with shotgun pellets or other metal packed into the head and with a coiled-spring handle. These devices were so common that most police uniforms came with a “blackjack pocket” along the pants leg. A leather strap at the base of the blackjack allowed an officer to secure the device to his wrist. The coiled-spring handle produced tremendous energy and a whipping force in the head of the device, which from time to time resulted in devastating injuries or death when an officer struck a citizen in the face or head. In an early 1990s federal appellate court decision, the court quoted expert testimony indicating that a blow from a blackjack to the head was “potentially lethal and … universally prohibited.” Shull’s blackjack strike to Woodard’s head near the bus stop that February evening—variously described as a “tap,” a “punch,” and a “good lick”—immediately quieted Woodard’s efforts to explain himself.

After striking Woodard in the head, Shull placed the sergeant under arrest and began escorting him to the town jail several blocks away. To secure him, Shull twisted Woodard’s arm behind his back and pushed him down one of Batesburg’s main streets, Railroad Avenue, and then right onto Granite Street to the jail. Shull left his other officer, Elliot Long, to question the supposedly drunk and disorderly white passenger, whom the driver was never able to reliably identify.

As the police chief and the soldier proceeded toward the town jail and out of sight, Woodard reported that Shull asked him whether he was discharged from the army. Woodard said that when he replied “yes,” Shull immediately struck him again on the head with the blackjack. The correct answer, Shull informed the soldier, was “yes, sir.” Woodard responded by grabbing the blackjack from Shull and wrenching it away. At that moment, in Woodard’s telling, Officer Long appeared with his gun drawn. Drop your weapon, he told Woodard—or “I will drop you.”

Woodard reported that when he complied with Long’s directive and allowed the blackjack to fall to the ground, Shull retrieved it and began to angrily beat him in the head and face. Woodard stated that he lost consciousness and lay on the ground for an unknown period of time. When he came to, Shull instructed him to stand up. As Woodard struggled to his feet, he reported, Shull struck him violently and repeatedly in one eye, and then the other, with the end of the blackjack, driving the baton “into my eyeballs.” The force used by Shull was so great that it broke his blackjack. Woodard stated he was then dragged into the town jail and placed in a cell, where he was the only prisoner present. Shortly thereafter, Shull and Long left for the evening, with Woodard in a semiconscious haze.

In his various statements and trial testimony, Shull denied beating Woodard repeatedly with his blackjack or driving the end of the weapon into his eyes but offered varied accounts regarding the number of times he struck him, the location where the strikes occurred, and the circumstances leading to the use of the blackjack. When first confronted about the incident by an Associated Press reporter, Shull stated that the soldier attempted to take his blackjack and he “cracked him across the head.” In his initial FBI interview, Shull claimed that he “bumped” Woodard with the baton after he refused to continue walking to the city jail. He claimed that after this “bump” with the blackjack, Woodard tried to wrench the weapon from his hand and, in self-defense, he struck Woodard a single time in the face with the blackjack. Later, Shull stated that while they were walking to the jail, Woodard “suddenly grabbed” the blackjack without any provocation, and he struck Woodard with the weapon once in self-defense. When confronted with these inconsistencies under cross-examination, Shull admitted he might have struck Woodard with his blackjack on three occasions: at the bus stop, while walking to the jail, and when Woodard attempted to take the blackjack from him.15

Shull denied that he beat Woodard into unconsciousness and left him dazed in the town jail overnight. Instead, he claimed that after striking Woodard with his blackjack one time outside the jail, he was able to move the soldier into a cell without further incident. He stated that Woodard voiced no complaints that evening about his eyes and was in good health when Shull left the jail. He also denied that Officer Long was present for any of his altercation with Woodard, which Long affirmed.16

When Woodard woke the next morning, he could not see. He had been awakened by Shull, who informed him he was due in city court that morning. This presented several practical problems. Woodard reported he was unable to see and needed assistance to move from one place to another. Further, the brutal beating of the night before had left his face covered with dried blood, which he could not see or remove without help. Shull led Woodard to the sink and cleaned him up for his court appearance. Then, said Woodard, Shull guided him to the city court to face a charge of drunk and disorderly conduct.

Woodard’s case was called by the Batesburg town judge, H. E. Quarles, who also served as the town’s mayor. Woodard attempted to explain to the judge the circumstances that had led to his conflict with the bus driver and with Chief Shull. Shull stepped in to inform Quarles that Woodard had attempted to take his blackjack on the way to the jail. Quarles responded by stating that “we don’t have that kind of stuff down here” and promptly found Woodard guilty. Woodard was given a fine of $50.00 or “30 days hard labor on the road.” He attempted to locate the money to pay the fine but had only $44.00 in cash and a check from the army for mustering-out pay of $694.73. According to Woodard, he wanted to endorse the check to pay the fine but was incapable of doing so because “I had never tried to sign my name without seeing.” The judge ultimately agreed to suspend the balance of the fine and accept payment of $44.00.17

Shull’s account of the morning differed. He denied that Woodard said he could not see, although one eye appeared “swelled practically shut” and the other was “puffed.” He claimed Woodard was able to negotiate himself over to the city court without assistance and could see sufficiently to count out the money in his pocket. According to Shull, when his case was called, Woodard stated he was guilty and “guessed he had too much to drink.” Judge Quarles would later testify that Woodard was able to see while in the city court that morning and that he pleaded guilty to the charge of drunk and disorderly conduct. Later medical evaluations of Woodard’s eye injuries made Shull’s and Quarles’s claims that Woodard could see that morning implausible if not medically impossible.18

With his court hearing completed and having paid the fine, Woodard was free to go. But according to Woodard, he was blind and incapable of navigating independently. He returned to the jail to lie down on a cot, telling Shull he felt ill. Shull attempted to locate the town physician, W. W. King, to see Woodard but was told the doctor was on a house call. Confronted with a prisoner who claimed he could not see as a result of traumatic injuries, and unable to obtain the assistance of a physician, Shull seemed at a loss for what to do next. One account had him repeatedly pouring water on Woodard’s eyes and asking after each application, “Can you see yet?” Shull testified he went to the town pharmacist for advice and was told to apply eyewash and warm towels until King arrived. He followed this advice, but Woodard did not improve.19

King showed up later that afternoon. He found both of Woodard’s eyes “badly swollen,” and when he opened the lids, “there was an escape of bloody fluid.” Although he prepared no medical record of his examination, he later testified that Woodard’s injuries were confined exclusively to his eyes, with swelling only over the eyelids and nose. He concluded that Woodard “had serious damage to both eyes” and “was badly in need of a specialist.” He recommended that Shull immediately transport Woodard to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Columbia, some thirty miles away. In compliance with King’s instructions, Shull loaded Woodard into the town’s police vehicle and drove him to the VA Hospital, telling the on-call physician that evening that Woodard had suffered his injuries as a result of an encounter with a police officer after being arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct.

Woodard was initially evaluated by the medical officer on duty, Major Albert Eaddy, who had trained as a psychiatrist. Eaddy immediately appreciated that Woodard’s condition was wholly beyond his expertise. Because the VA Hospital had no eye specialist, he summoned the ear, nose, and throat specialist, Captain Arthur Clancy, to Woodard’s bedside. Clancy observed that both of Woodard’s eyelids were black and blue and swollen, and there was massive hemorrhaging inside each eye. He was then able to determine that Woodard’s right cornea was lacerated. He did not note any other injuries that were visible in that initial examination. He would later diagnose Woodard with a rupture of his right globe and massive intraocular hemorrhaging to both eyes. He also indicated that Woodard’s remaining vision was “nil” and that there was no available treatment for his condition.

Woodard was seen the following morning, February 14, by Dr. Mortimer Burger, an internist, who conducted a full physical examination. Burger documented a history of Woodard’s having been beaten on the head by a police officer and knocked unconscious. He noted that Woodard’s eyelids were moderately swollen and tender, with a thick coat of pus and bloody material. When he pulled back the soldier’s eyelids, he observed hemorrhaging of the eyeballs. He also documented the presence of dried blood over Woodard’s right ear and swelling on the forehead and on the upper portions of his cheek. He noted that there was swelling over the nose but no gross deformities; a skull X-ray confirmed the absence of any fracture to the nose. Thus, Burger’s initial examination suggested that Woodard had suffered facial and head trauma greater than would be expected from a single strike by a blackjack. Because Woodard had bilateral blindness and lacked any fracture of the facial or nasal bones, a fair question was how Woodard could have been blinded in both eyes from a single strike of a blackjack.

Woodard remained at the VA Hospital for the next two months and was treated with antibiotics and other medications related to the traumatic injuries to his eyes. There was no treatment offered or recommended that would restore his vision. Upon his discharge on April 13, Woodard was diagnosed with bilateral phthisis bulbi “secondary to trauma,” which meant he had two shrunken, nonfunctioning eyes as a result of his encounter in Batesburg. The VA physicians determined that he was totally and permanently blind, unable to discern light sufficiently to tell when a 60-watt bulb was on or off. Woodard’s discharging doctors offered him no hope for future treatment and could only recommend that he attend a school for the blind.

While Woodard was hospitalized, VA staff applied for VA disability benefits on his behalf. But there was a major complication: Woodard had been discharged around 5:00 p.m. from Camp Gordon, Georgia, approximately five hours before suffering his disabling injury. Although he was still in uniform and had not yet reached home, VA rules at the time disqualified him from full benefits and limited him to partial disability benefits of $50 per month. (This denial of full pension benefits would later become highly controversial but would not be rectified for more than fifteen years, when Congress finally amended the law to allow full service-related disability for a soldier who suffered a disabling injury while traveling home after discharge from the military.)

As Woodard convalesced in the VA Hospital, his wife, Rosa, then living in Winnsboro, showed little interest in continuing their relationship. According to a Woodard family member, Rosa did not look forward to a future life with a disabled husband. Like many southern black families, Woodard’s parents and siblings had moved north during the war in search of greater economic opportunities, and the entire family now resided together in New York City. When Woodard was finally discharged from the hospital, two of his sisters traveled to South Carolina to gather up their blinded brother and bring him to the new family home at 1100 Franklin Avenue in the Bronx.

Life was a struggle for Woodard. He complained to his mother, “My head feels like it’s going to burst [and] my eyes ache.” He fumbled around the home, having no training for independent living as a blind person. His mother prayed nightly for some relief for her son, lamenting that a loss of a leg or arm would have been less devastating than the loss of sight.

The Woodard family resolved to seek specialized evaluation and treatment in the newly emerging field of ophthalmology to determine if there was any potential treatment for Isaac. Dr. Chester Chinn, America’s first African American ophthalmologist, examined Woodard in his Manhattan office on April 25, 1946. He determined that the structural injuries to Woodard’s eyes were more extensive than diagnosed by the VA physicians, finding that Woodard had suffered traumatic ruptures of both globes. This made any prospect for recovery essentially nonexistent. Chinn also diagnosed Woodard with “bilateral phthisis bulbi of traumatic origin” and rated his prognosis “hopeless.” For Sergeant Isaac Woodard, now twenty-seven, blinded, unemployed, abandoned by his wife, and limited to a VA pension below subsistence level, “hopeless” might have seemed an apt prognosis of his life ahead.

Callum Borchers, Eve Zuckoff, Paris Alston, WBUR.org, How A Long-Forgotten Act Of Police Brutality Transformed A Federal Judge, U.S. President And Civil Rights In America17:57“, Excerpted from UNEXAMPLED COURAGE: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring by Richard Gergel.

https://www.wbur.org/radioboston/2019/03/08/unexampled-courage-gergel-book