The decision made by a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri not to indict Officer Darren Wilson sparked protests across the nation, including in the Tampa Bay region. Eyes and ears have been finely tuned, waiting for a decision from the grand jury as to whether an indictment should be forthcoming against Police Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown in the Ferguson Missouri case.
This is a tragic case on so many levels. First and foremost, for Michael Brown’s family, and then for the family of Darren Wilson, as well as for the community of Ferguson, Missouri, as riots continue to erupt. Buildings and cars have been set on fire, businesses have been looted, and communities torn apart so that children can’t even feel safe to attend school. It is a national tragedy that is playing out with regard to the Ferguson case. It’s stirring up racism concerns and many protestors are letting anger get the best of them. What really happened on that night? Was it black versus white? Or was it police officers versus teenagers? Was it something else? Was it fear, confusion, a misunderstanding? Is this a case of wrongful death? The grand jury did not return an indictment on the charges filed. Was it because the letters of the law that guided them were too narrowly limited in their scope and verbiage so that not a clear enough case could be made, according to the laws of the courts? Calm discussions need to ensue in which all participants can have a voice. All citizens, black and white, and all nationalities, need to be treated equally and fairly.
According to The Tampa Tribune, a similar incident occurred in St. Petersburg in 1996 when 18-year-old Tyrone Lewis, who happened to be black, was shot by a police officer, who happened to be white. Tensions rose in and around Saint Petersburg during this time as well. Tyrone Lewis’ sister, Deanne Lewis, said that Michael Brown’s death at the hands of police brought back “a lot of memories” for her and she was among the protestors, according to the news article. What needs to happen to resolve tensions between police and the citizens they are sworn to protect? Peaceful protests. Discussions and conversations where issues can be raised calmly, with all sides looking for solutions so that the nation, the world, won’t ever have to be witness to such tragedies again. Can it be done?
Yet another incident in which police officers said they were “feeling threatened,” according to The St. Petersburg Tribune sadly resulted in another death. This time, it was when deputies were dispatched to a mobile home park where it was said that an individual was trying to harm himself. The situation there escalated until another tragedy occurred. What rights do police officers have? Both deputies involved in this case were put on administrative leave, which is the routine procedure after any deputy-involved shooting. They have both since been cleared to return to work.
What is the definition of a “wrongful death”? “A wrongful death claim may be warranted when the death of a person is the result of negligent, or reckless actions taken or not taken, or willful conduct in the treatment of an individual, resulting in death.” Does this apply when a police office is involved? What are the criteria under which the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri made their decision? Contact a personal injury attorney to discuss the situation if a loved one has been involved in what you consider to be a wrongful death to see if a claim may be filed. Sadly, it will never bring a loved one back; however, justice should be served. Civil litigation in the form of a lawsuit may also be possible.
It is 2014, soon to be 2015. Let’s have a national conversation about stopping these kinds of tragedies.