The letter writer for “Rethink Your Battles, Protesters,” [Aug. 3, Xpress] really must have a very calloused heart to say that police killings under “circumstances that were obviously unjust” was “incredibly disheartening.” I would say the repeated, almost daily, killing of unarmed and nonviolent black men, boys, women and girls is absolutely heartbreaking, soul-destroying and completely depressing. It is the lack of any public remorse by our country’s police that is incredibly disheartening. But one thing that writer did not mention is that often the original police stories of those killings were often proven totally false when videos came to light. That has happened many times. And no one faces any real consequences.
That letter writer then goes on to defend the Asheville Police Department officer in the recent shooting of Jai Lateef Solveig “Jerry” Williams, without any corroborating evidence other than what has been presented via the APD in the local media. I was not at the scene of this shooting, but I have heard from people who have talked to witnesses on the scene, and they are telling a very different story. I have also heard that there is video from this shooting, but that APD still has the cell phones with the videos on them. If that is true, then the APD needs to release the cell phones and videos and let the public judge the evidence.
And I think the State Bureau of Investigation report on A.J. Marion should be released also. I feel that would go a long way to corroborate the APD’s version of what happened at that [September 2013] shooting — or not. I have lots of doubts about that incident.
At Bele Chere in 2007, I saw an APD officer grab a young women and throw her to the pavement and then yell at her to leave immediately or he would have her arrested. She jumped up and ran off. I went up to this officer a few minutes later and asked him why he threw her to the ground, and he told me that he did not throw her to the ground, she tripped. I found out that two local women (one a friend, one a stranger) had also seen this incident from a closer perspective. We decided to pursue this with Chief [Bill] Hogan. After months of stalling, we met with Chief Hogan and two city officials. At that meeting, Chief Hogan told us we did not see what we thought we saw. I learned from that experience that APD officers can lie to my face, and the chief and city will back him up. Things may be different today, but I suspect not.
I do agree with that letter writer that “it’s not safe with people shooting off assault rifles.” And the only way to counter that problem is to ban assault rifles and round them up. Having the police shoot up people with assault rifles strikes me as a dangerous course to pursue. I feel it is not the protesters who do not understand the seriousness of the situation — I think it is the letter writer, the APD and some city officials.
The ones out there protesting do realize how bad the situation is for black people in our country — we are treating them like their very right to go on living is not an important issue. We are treating them like their lives do not matter. We are treating them like they are less than fully human with the same rights and same opportunities as anyone else in our country. There is a rage developing (and has been developing for a long time), and this is a situation that could totally explode, since justice and truth have been denied for so very long. It is a soul-destroying situation that cannot continue. #BlackLivesMatter.
— Susan Oehler
Editor’s note: When contacted by Xpress about the 2007 Bele Chere incident, Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper provided the following response:
“In reference to the 2007 case mentioned [in the letter], that took place nine years prior to me beginning with the Asheville Police Department. Our Professional Standards Unit did locate an investigative file regarding the incident. The complaint was investigated and a letter sent to the complainant informing her of the results. We cannot release any information on the case due to it being a personnel matter, however, I do agree that the investigation appears to have taken longer to complete than it should have.
Our procedures have been updated since 2007 and require that investigations be completed in a timely manner. If a citizen wishes to make a complaint, they can follow instructions on our website, or call our Professional Standards Unit at (828) 259-5907.
The Asheville Police Department is dedicated to providing the best police service possible and as such, will thoroughly investigate any accusation of wrongdoing by our officers.”