Hundreds Protest over DeAundre Phillips APD Killing, Withholding of Tape and Officer Name
(APN) ATLANTA — Frustration and anger spilled into the streets of Atlanta’s Bankhead neighborhood on Sunday, February 12, 2017, as residents grapple with yet another questionable killing of an unarmed, young Black man by police.
DeAundre Phillips, 24, a father of a five year-old daughter, was sleeping in a car on January 26, 2017, minutes before a plain-clothed Atlanta Police Officer killed him in the Public Safety Annex building parking lot.
Atlanta Police claim he “looked suspicious” and a “marijuana smell” was coming from the car, and that he tried to drive away.
According to news reports, Phillips had accompanied a friend to the police annex to pick up some documents; and while waiting in the car, he fell asleep.
Community members are sick and tired of these killings and organized hundreds to march from English Park to the Public Safety Annex building off Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway to demand the arrest of the officer and release of the surveillance tape.
Signs expressed such sentiments as, “Killer Kops in our Kommunity,” “Stop Killing Black People,” “Justice for DeAundre Phillips,” “Smash White Supremacy,” “We Will Not Be Silent,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Stop Racist State Violence.”
“We are trying to get the Atlanta Police Department to release the tapes and the names of the officers who were involved in the shooting,” Tybonia Phillips, DeAundre’s mother, told Atlanta Progressive News.
At the last meeting of the Atlanta City Council, Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9), who represents the area, asked why the tapes and officer’s name were not being released.
Senior Assistant City Attorney Amber Robinson told Moore that they were exempt because of an exemption under the Georgia Open Records Act related to pending investigations.
However, an exemption means that the documents do not have to be released, not that they cannot be released. Councilwoman Moore said she perceived that a “policy decision” had been made somewhere in the administration not to release the tapes.
The epidemic of police killing Black people did not just start recently; however, citizens have become more aware with the advent of cell phone cameras and videos, and rapid communication on the Internet.
In Metro Atlanta, police killings in recent memory include Kathryn Johnston, Ariston Waiters, Kevin Davis, Anthony Hill, Nicholas Thomas, Alexia Christian, Quandavier Hicks, Caine Rogers, Jamariona Robinson and many, many others.
“I’m wondering why a plain clothed officer can take someone’s life and just do what you want to do – they can kill at will. We are trying to get to the bottom of this,” Haroun Shahid Wakil, with the Street Groomers, told APN.
“This City spends 180 million dollars a year in police salaries and pensions and that money comes from our tax money. Fifty-two percent of the City budget is invested in the Police Department and the Department of Corrections,” Dean Steed, Solutions not Punishment (SNaP), told the crowd.
“Our money is going into our own death, our own policing, our own incarceration. Three and one-half million dollars on body cameras because they wanted to increase police accountability in the community, but they can’t even release the tapes,” Steed said.
Gerald Griggs, an attorney and Vice President of the Atlanta Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) disputes the APD’s claims that the tapes are unreleasable due to a pending investigation.
“Kasim and Chief Shields are hiding behind a lie, they can release the police report, and arrest the officer and they can take it down to Paul Howard and he can make a decision to indict,” Griggs said.
“If someone committed a murder and it wasn’t a police officer, they would be in Rice Street [jail] with no bond,” Griggs said.
“They tabled the broken window ordinance that would have rebuilt the criminal justice system… I want the system to be fair,” Griggs said.
Last year, City Councilman Kwanza Hall (District 2) introduced a criminal justice reform package (Ordinance 16-O-1413) that would potentially decriminalize and remove over seventy city offenses–including cannabis possession–which used by the police to justify racially-motivated profiling and arrests of Black, Brown, and homeless people.
But the ordinance was tabled and went nowhere.
At the last Full Council Meeting, Councilman Hall said he didn’t want to put “undue pressure on colleagues,” but that he hoped his ordinance could be revisited.
Attorney Tiffany Roberts talked about how the system is not set up to protect Black people and that the City Council of Atlanta, which is majority Black, did not pass that ordinance that would help protect Black people.
“We are going to attack the system. Not one more daddy, grandfather, mother, or grandmother dead and gone because of this bogus war on drugs,” Roberts promised.
“If a marijuana smell is reason to kill, then half the police officers would be dead,” someone said.
Many community members believe that if the ordinance had passed and been enforced, then Phillips would not have been racially profiled; and the interaction between Phillips and the police could have been prevented.
The ordinance would require APD to release tapes related to police involved murders to the community within 48 to 72 hours.
Activists, as well as the police, know that if this had been a White person in Buckhead, instead of a Black person in Bankhead the outcome would likely be different.