NEWARK, NJ — The People’s Organization for Progress held its 30th consecutive Justice Monday protest rally outside the Peter Rodino Federal Building on Broad Street in downtown Newark on Monday, Aug. 22.
The group’s stated goal for the weekly protests is to convince U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman to open up federal civil rights investigations into the police-involved shooting deaths and allegations of use of excessive force by police on unarmed black male suspects in municipalities across New Jersey.
Such cases include: Abdul Kamal, who was shot and killed by Irvington police; Kashad Ashford, who was killed by Lyndhurst police; Jerome Reid, who was killed by Bridgeton police; and 14-year-old Radazz Hearns, who was shot seven times by Trenton police.
On Monday, Aug. 22, P.O.P. Chairman Larry Hamm and Reid’s surviving family members were told the U.S. government has decided not investigate Reid’s case.
“We just got bad news out of the fed building today that they ain’t going to do nothing to the police about killing my brother,” Sean Reid, Jerome’s brother, said Monday, Aug. 22. “Forget the police, because they ain’t doing nothing. Forget the feds, too. They lock me up before they even find out what’s going on, but they’ve got the police on camera doing this stuff and they don’t even lock them up.”
Jerome and Sean’s mother, Sheila Reid, also said she feels there has not been any justice for her slain son.
“Paul Fishman and (Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas J.) Eicher are wrong,” said Sheila Reid on Monday, Aug. 22. “They got their own scenario. They tried to say that my son had a gun; that the police (officer) was in fear for his life. But he wasn’t in fear for his life. He knew Jerome personally. This was a personal vendetta.”
Sean Reid said he thinks his brother was targeted by the officer who fired the shot that killed him.
Sheila Reid said anyone interested in learning the truth about what happened to her son can watch the video recording of the incident on YouTube.
“The cop said he feared for his life, but (Jerome Reid’s) hands was up and they’re trying to say that, when he went to unbuckle the seatbelt, there was a gun there and he tried to pull the gun out on them. There was no gun. They searched the car while he was sitting there,” Sheila Reed said. “If you see the video, you have to watch it blow by blow by blow, and you’ll understand what’s going on. These guys up here saw what they wanted to see.” She added, police “are like a gang, like the Crips and Bloods” and they “are shooting us for nothing.”
Ingrid Hill, the vice chairwoman for Internal Affairs for People’s Organization for Progress, said she accompanied Reid’s surviving family members to the meeting at the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Monday, Aug. 22. She said she understands why Jerome Reid’s surviving family members are upset about the decision not to pursue a federal civil rights investigation into Jerome’s death.
“Actually, we got the news from Eicher; Fishman wasn’t there,” said Hill on Monday, Aug. 22. “Eicher is one of the people that was handling the investigation for the case. I think one of the things is the threshold for prosecution in the civil rights law is so high that it appears it’s almost nearly impossible to pass whatever that test is, because with Jerome, he had no weapons on him. He was never even given a chance.”
Hill said, as far as she is concerned, Jerome Reid’s death “was a killing. … I don’t care what anybody or the federal investigation says, Jerome was murdered by police.”
Hamm said he had been cautiously optimistic that Fishman might break with tradition and look at the facts of Jerome Reid’s death and conclude that a federal civil rights investigation was warranted. But he said he was not surprised by Fishman’s decision.
“Today was the 30th Justice Monday,” said Hamm on Monday, Aug. 22. “The Reid family met with the No. 2 man. I wasn’t in the meeting but, based on what Ingrid told me and based on what Jerome’s mother, Sheila, told me, I was of course utterly disappointed by what I heard. Not surprised. But I was hoping that Fishman would do better than that.”
Hamm also agreed with Hill that “the standard set by law for prosecution, they felt the standard hadn’t been met and that’s why they couldn’t convene a jury.” He also said that wasn’t the first time he’d heard that reason quoted as the justification for letting a police officer get away with killing an unarmed black man.
“If that law ain’t been changed in 40 years with all the people that have been killed in the past 40 years, I don’t expect it’s going to be changed any time soon,” Hamm said. “The authorities can tinker around and tinker around if they want to. But the longer they refuse to act or fail to act, the more discontent or the more civil disturbances like Milwaukee we’re going to see.”
Hamm was referring the recent shooting death of another black man, Sylville Smith, this time by a black police officer, in Milwaukee on Saturday, Aug. 13, that touched off riots in that city. Attempts to obtain a comment on the Fishman’s decision regarding Jerome Reid’s case were unsuccessful by press time this week.