Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Memphis not Ferguson? Darrius is not Eric Garner, Michael Brown, LaQuan McDonald, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott.....

Attorney for Stewart's father reveals officer Connor Schilling
was charged with 'leaving the scene' prior to MPD hiring

UPDATE FEB. 7, 2019
Civil trial brought by mother and father of Darrius Stewart will be heard Feb. 25, 2019, in U.S. District Court in Memphis. City of Memphis recently was dismissed as a defendant.

The DOJ investigated in 2015 but stated Stewart's civil rights had not been violated. However, this investigation led to the DOJ's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) collaborative review of MPD, which was announced in October, 2016, as a hedge by Memphis officials to dodge a more serious possible "patterns and practices" review by the DOJ Civil Rights Division. In April 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions terminated the DOJ's review of policing in Memphis and such ongoing reviews in 13 other cities.

Below is our story from December, 2015, including these witness videos, which are disturbing and contain profanity. These are links published by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and then posted by local media on their YouTube sites. We show clips from these and other largely unseen, disturbing footage from the night Darrius was murdered as part of our documentary on citizen police oversight, Who Will Watch the Watchers?


 Witness #1 video (same as link to the right)

Witness #2 video 

The Department of Justice will independently investigate the killing of 19-year-old Darrius Stewart July 17, 2015, by Memphis police officer Connor Schilling.

This news came before attorneys for Darrius Stewart's family held a press conference today to announce they had read a just-released, 918-page Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report and found that witnesses said Schilling's deadly second shot came as Darrius was trying to get away from him.

Memphis city officials, from the mayor to the police, have insisted this year -- mainly as they were talking against citizen oversight of police -- that "We're not Ferguson." Darrius Stewart's case differs from the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and from other infamous police killings in one key way:

Darrius Stewart was not the target of police attention; he was a bystander, a passenger in the back seat
Darrius Stewart
of a car at a traffic stop.

In the context of systemic problems which have led to police killings of men who appeared to pose no threat to officers, Memphis, Tennessee, is Ferguson, Baltimore, Cincinnati, North Charleston -- everywhere and Anywhere, USA.  Granted, the public outcry in Memphis after the killing of Darrius Stewart was muted compared to protesters in Ferguson, and in Memphis there was no police rollout of tear gas and tank-like vehicles.

It's a cruel twist that Stewart was a passenger in a car at a traffic stop and was not being accosted by police for anything he was doing.  The other infamous deaths at the hands of police that have made news the past two years involved men who were drivers, in the case of traffic stops, or who were being stopped by police for something they were doing or were believed to be doing.  Not saying here that selling cigarettes on the street in New York (Eric Garner) or running when you see cops in Baltimore (Freddie Gray) are grounds for being choked, shot or beaten to death.


Carlos Moore, attorney representing Stewart's father, Henry Williams, noted that Schilling had been charged with leaving the scene of an accident in DeSoto County, Mississippi, in 2009, before he was hired to be a Memphis police officer, as well as having a DUI charge for which he was disciplined by MPD in 2014 with an 18-day suspension. In DeSoto County, however, Schilling's 2014 charge was dismissed after the arresting officer failed to appear.

UPDATE Nov. 29, 2017:
Schilling also caught a DUI charge when a Southaven officer found him intoxicated in a Taco Bell parking lot on July 6, 2017. Schilling got a "slap on the wrist," according to attorney Moore and with a fairly easy path toward getting his charge dismissed.   
Was this the third time that the DeSoto County justice system had let Schilling off the hook for drinking and driving?
From The Commercial Appeal: https://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/crime/2017/11/29/connor-schillings-dui-charge-southaven-could-dismissed/902886001/

"Schilling never should have been hired by the Memphis police department," Moore told us last month after learning of the Citizens Media Resource report about the leaving the scene charge.

No other media has reported this story, so far as we know, although Schilling and the case have gotten intense scrutiny, generally.  Can anyone explain why?  Anyone?  However, the information is a matter of public record and was at one time accessible on the DeSoto County Justice Court website.

Since we confirmed the information about Schilling's Jan. 3, 2009, arrest with a DeSoto County Justice Court deputy clerk, the status of Schilling's case has been changed from "open/pending" to "not guilty."

Conner Schilling was charged with leaving the scene of an accident on Jan. 3, 2009

We spoke with two DeSoto County court clerks on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13, and they confirmed that the six-year-old case status was "open/pending," with "no disposition" and with no indication of whether the case had been heard in court or whether Schilling had appeared.  However, one clerk, who said she had looked up the hard file on the case, said that a fine of $190.50 had been turned over to a collection agency in an attempt to recover the amount from Schilling.  The clerk knew Schilling was a police officer.

Somehow, between Nov. 13 and Dec. 3, the status of the case was changed online to "not guilty."  The URL which had gone to the case record showing "open/pending" suddenly went to another person's case.  The "not guilty" version of Case 9201454 appeared on the website -- and the URL was the same as that which contained the former record, except the last number was changed from "5" to "6."
Suddenly, after we talked to DeSoto County deputy clerk, Schiiling's 6-year-old charge was changed to "not guilty"

While a Shelby County grand jury failed to indict Schilling for voluntary manslaughter, there will be a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of surviving family members.  That Schilling had a "leaving the scene" charge on his record before the city of Memphis hired him to be a police officer will bolster's the plaintiff's case, attorneys believe.

Dropbox file showing DeSoto County Justice Court record Connor Schilling Case 9201454 as it existed Nov. 11, 2015 (the date is in upper right corner of the page):

UPDATE FEB. 7, 2019
The following URLs have been changed since our story of Dec. 15, 2015. But, here they are, and you can see they no longer pertain to Schilling.

Resuming from Dec. 15, 2015, story:

Link to DeSoto County Justice Court record Connor Schilling Case 9201454 as it existed Dec. 3, 2015:http://records.desotocountyms.gov/WEBPGMS/JCRINQDEF1.pgm?TASK=disp&rrn=000067286

When we tried to use the link to look at the record online just now, we got an error message: "Safari Can't Open the Page."  We got it to open once -- but it went to a different person's record.

We have not asked the DeSoto County court for an explanation.

Here is a link to Schilling Case 9201454 as we revisited this matter on May 18, 2017, showing the disposition changed to "not guilty:" http://desotoms.info/WEBPGMS/JCRINQDEF1.pgm?TASK=disp&rrn=000067314

Moore said that Schilling's hassling of Stewart represented racial profiling as he would not have asked a white passenger for his ID after a broken headlight traffic stop.

Anecdotes abound among African-Americans about police stopping cars with several black passengers and having everyone get out and show IDs, on the premise that somebody would owe back child support or would have an outstanding warrant on his record.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

'Runaway Inequality is ripping us apart'

Les Leopold, author of Runaway Inequality, lays out the damage from the extreme inequality which
favors Wall Street, privatizers and militarization at the expense of the rest of us.  Eighty-five individuals in the U.S. have more wealth than the bottom 50 per cent of Americans.

Truth-out interview with Leopold hits the high spots in this linked story.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

'The Suburban Itch' Comedy Short Released for Public Consumption

'The Suburban Itch,' a short film which takes on profiling with humor and Memphis hip-hop music to help the message go down, is released for public viewing free of charge on Vimeo.com and Youtube.com.  Links to the 10-minute film:

'The Suburban Itch' made its Tennessee premiere Nov. 8 at the Indie Memphis Film Festival, and the posted version of the film includes some audio of audience reaction during that screening.  The film previously had been shown at LA- and NYC-area and other film festivals.  

The film is prospectively a feature film, or the basis of an episodic series.  Producer Moore Media & Entertainment also is developing other stories, including an episodic comedy series and a comedy feature.  

"If you like 'Weeds' and 'House of Cards,' you will like what we have cooking," said producer Gary Moore.  "In 'Second Coming,' a pissed-off Jesus returns to Earth to expose a televangelist who claims the Son of God has personally endorsed the preacher's fund-raising campaign.  First episode is 'What Would Jesus Really Do?'  

"In 'The Pregnant Prick,' House Majority Leader Hiram A. Bullwright , a womanizer and friend of Big Pharma, becomes pregnant as suddenly do men around the world.  Scientists blame climate change for the phenomenon, and Bullwright's politics are turned upside down," said Moore, who is seeking production partners.