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Families Of People Killed By Police In Mass. Call For Reopening Cases

Mass. Action Against Police Brutality protesters march down Tremont Street Wednesday night. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Mass. Action Against Police Brutality protesters march down Tremont Street Wednesday night. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Over 100 people gathered in Boston to call for reopening cases of people killed by police in Massachusetts on Wednesday evening. Many held signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “Dismantle White Supremacy.”

The demonstration started in front of the Massachusetts State House, where family members and friends of Terrence ColemanUsaamah RahimJustin Root, Eurie Stamps and others spoke about how for them, justice would be law enforcement being held accountable for the deaths of their loved ones.

Jennifer Root Bannon is the sister of Juston Root, who was shot nearly 30 times by six cops in February.

“After they executed him, they made disgusting comments,” Root Bannon said in front of the State House, while news choppers flew overhead.

According to the family’s lawsuit, officers congratulated each other after the shooting, with statements including: “Yeah, I killed that motherf-er”; “I emptied my magazine on him.”

Root Bannon held back tears.

“Do these sound like comments made by people who were afraid of their lives?” she asked demonstrators.

“No,” they shouted in unison.

The officers said Root led them on a chase and reached for what was later revealed to be a replica gun. They were cleared by the Norfolk District Attorney.

But the Root family is calling for a special prosecutor. And other families of those killed by police want an independent investigation in those cases.

The group marched from to Peters Park in the South End. Wednesday’s protest was organized by Mass Action Against Police Brutality.  The group held a demonstration back in June, calling for the same thing.  But there hasn’t been much movement since then, except for a few phone calls from Massachusetts politicos, said Brock Satter, who heads the group.

In a statement from June, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said the cases that Boston demonstrators want reopened happened under previous administrations, but if new evidence is discovered, she wants it sent to her office.

But Satter said it seems like politicians are shirking responsibility.

“What we’ve always maintained is no new evidence is needed — that probable cause exists in the investigative files if you want to prosecute the police,” Satter said. “It’s not really a legal question. This is a political question, really. The people in power just need to act.”

On Wednesday, during a press conference, WBUR asked Gov. Charlie Baker if he had the ability to assign a special prosecutor or call for an independent investigation of these cases. He said he didn’t know.

“I don’t know if the [state] Attorney General has the authority under existing law to reopen a case that’s been closed,” Baker said, admittedly unprepared for the question. “And as I stand here, I don’t know if I do either.”

But the Attorney General’s office pointed to a section of a Massachusetts law that indicates District Attorneys have that jurisdiction. It seems Suffolk County DA Rollins has been in contact with the families of those who have been killed by police. But no meeting has happened yet.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 WBUR

Quincy J. Walters is a junior at USF, majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. His interest in journalism spurred from the desire to convey compelling narratives. He has written for USF’s student paper, The Oracle and is currently the videographer for Creative Pinellas. If he’s not listening to NPR, he’s probably listening to Randy Newman.
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