February 24, 2013

Vigil Remembers Slain Ithaca Man

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Carrying candles and signs with messages such as “Who investigates the police?” or “No more police killing,” about 75 people gathered near the site of a 2010 shooting on West Buffalo Street Saturday for a vigil commemorating the third anniversary of the death of Shawn Greenwood, a black Ithaca resident who was shot and killed by a white officer of the Ithaca Police Department.

According to Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson, IPD officers attempted to arrest Greenwood as part of a narcotics investigation, approaching him outside of Pete’s Grocery on West Buffalo Street, The Sun reported in May 2010. Greenwood resisted officers who tried to remove him from his vehicle, prompting officers to taser him.

Greenwood then drove onto a curb, hitting a Dryden police officer. Ignoring orders from the other officers to stop, Greenwood continued to drive, and IPD Sgt. Brian Bangs fired several shots that killed the 29-year-old man.

“This happened three years ago, and we still have questions unanswered that we ask[ed] shortly after this tragedy,” said James Ricks, one of the organizers of the event.

Ricks decried what he called the police’s “long history of justifying the abuse and killing of the marginalized in our society.”

“The problem is that when police forgive each other, or pardon each other, it’s usually at the expense of somebody seriously injured or dead,” he said. “Usually, and disproportionally, the ‘justifiably’ killed are black, brown or poor, or some combination of these three.”

Ricks also noted the discrepencies in the police’s investigation of Greeenwood’s death.

“Why, if the police are being truthful, haven’t they released the videos they confiscated of the incident?” Ricks said. “There was conflicting police and witness testimony about key points in this tragedy.”

­Greenwood’s death was reenacted twice at the event by members of the Shawn Greenwood Working Group, an organization dedicated to honoring Greenwood’s memory by “continuing to challenge police racism and to support the community to take action for justice,” according to materials distributed at the event.

The first reenactment of the death read in the police report, and the second, conflicting version was a witness account that the SGWG said was left out of the police report. According to the SGWC, witness testimony stated that “there was never anyone in front of, or in any immediate danger of being run over by, Shawn Greenwood’s van.” The two reenactments culminated in several minutes of silence.

SGWC member Clare Grady tied Greenwood’s death to a tendency toward racism in society, underscoring a theme of police accountability.

“When we allow police to get away with murder, it makes us all unsafe. When we allow police to kill black men with impunity, it reinforces the racism in our society,” Grady said. “We say that the police should never be the only ones to investigate themselves when they kill people. We say that the work of seeking the truth and justice is not just the work of police agents but it is the work of we, the people.”

Original Author: Emma Court