In this Block Report, Minister of Information JR interviews the parents of Oakland school police murder victim Raheim Brown Jr. Lori Davis and Raheim Brown Sr. talk about the police killing their son as well as who their son was before he was brutally murdered by campus police.
Witness contests Oakland school police story on murder of Raheim Brown
by Jesse Strauss
On Saturday, Jan. 22, 20-year-old Raheim Brown was shot and killed by the Oakland Unified School District’s police force outside Skyline High School. Police statements and media have reported that Brown tried to stab an officer with a screwdriver, and a second officer shot Brown five times – once in each arm, once in his chest and twice in his head – in defense of his partner.
On Thursday, Feb. 3, outside the OUSD headquarters, Brown’s mother, Lori Davis, spoke at a press conference. Calling the killing an “assassination,” she was horrified by the excessive use of force by school police officers. Davis believes that Sgts. Barhim Bhatt and Jonathan Bellusa, the two cops identified at the press conference as the two involved in Brown’s killing, should “never to be able to work in another police department ever.”
Tamisha Stewart, the only civilian witness to the killing, who was in a car with Brown outside Skyline High, spoke for the first time publicly about the event. The screwdriver Brown was accused of using as a weapon, according to Stewart, was being used in an attempt to hotwire the car, and it “never left the ignition.”
While hotwiring a car might be cause for police attention, it is not cause for five bullets, including two to the head. Stewart added, “There was nothing that Raheim did that he deserved to die.” According to statements at the press conference, after Brown was killed, Stewart was beaten badly and jailed for almost a week.
An Oakland teacher’s union representative also spoke at the Thursday press conference, saying that the union had voted to “support fully an independent investigation” into Brown’s killing and the OUSD Police Department.
Brown was one of three people killed by police in a single week in Oakland. Earlier this year, Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts called on the FBI for an external investigation into the November police killing of Derrick Jones. As initial police statements contrast sharply with Stewart’s account of Brown’s killing, further investigation into this case might also be warranted.
Raheim Brown’s family is asking for financial support in order to claim his death certificate from the coroner as well as to pay for funeral and burial costs, which will total over $4,500. The Coroner’s Office refuses to release the death certificate without a $320 payment. Donations can be made to a Wells Fargo account in the name of “RPOS Raheim Malik Brown” to account number 5104210850 and routing number 121000148.
Families of Oakland police victims plead for support, DA refuses prosecution
Two months after Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts announced an FBI investigation into the November police killing of Derrick Jones, the Alameda County district attorney told Jones’ family that she had decided against prosecuting the officers who shot Jones eight times as he was running away, unarmed. According to Jones’ family at the Oakland City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 8, the DA has not received any reports from the police department’s Internal Affairs office or the FBI.
Bruce Nash, one of Jones’ family members, explained that as of Tuesday, “We have no clue in terms of what’s happened with the FBI report,” and added that it seems like “this is a murder that’s been swept under the carpet.” Moreover, he was “very disappointed in what was stated today by Ms. O’Malley” and asked for support from the City Council by finding all Internal Affairs and FBI reports in order to be informed about how to proceed as a grieving and upset family.
While council members spoke in support of accessing these reports, none were aware whether any had actually been completed. Councilmember Nancy Nadel cited the California Police Bill of Rights, which limits criminal liability of officers, in explaining why the family hasn’t gotten any reports, and called the Police Bill of Rights “part of the problem.”
Jones’ mother supported Nash’s request to the City Council. “I’m stressing for you guys to help. Something needs to happen with these police officers. They’re killing machines.”
Also present at the meeting were both parents of Raheim Brown, the 20-year-old man shot five times including twice in the head by Oakland school police on Jan. 22. Brown’s mother, Lori Davis, explained that Sgt. Jonathan Bellusa, the officer who initiated the gunfire that killed her son, had previously been charged at least twice for excessive use of force including another case that resulted in another man’s death. Davis brought a plea similar to the one from the Jones family to the City Council: “I need your help making sure this officer gets investigated.”
Closing out the meeting, Jack Bryson, the father of two of Oscar Grant’s friends who were with Grant when he was killed, said, “What I’m seeing now is there’s a genocide on Black and Brown men.” As Grant’s case is over two years old and by far the oldest of the three, Bryson has tried time and again to find support, but as he articulated on Tuesday, “All three families are grieving and no one is stepping up to do nothing.”
In support of these families, a slew of local and national organizations held “A People’s Hearing on Racism and Police Violence,” which gave space for victims and their family members to offer public testimony about their experiences. To learn more and watch videos of the hearing, visit http://peopleshearing.wordpress.com/.
Bay Area journalist Jesse Strauss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. These stories first appeared on Indybay, the first at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/02/05/18671237.php and the second at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/02/09/18671614.php.