A Police Beating Creates Anger In Motor City
Detroit leaders try to avoid replay of L.A. riots
THE blood stains have been washed away by weeks of rain, but the mourners still pass by, staring, trying to imagine what happened, and occasionally placing flowers on the spot where Malice Green was beaten to death.Skip to next paragraph
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Crime and violence have become an unwelcome way of life in the inner city. But all too often, Detroit residents complain, they are falling victim to the very people sworn to protect them.
The specter of police brutality was driven home on Nov. 5 when Mr. Green was pulled over in what appeared to begin as a routine traffic stop. Exactly what happened next will have to be determined in court, but according to witnesses, Green was dragged from his car, then kicked, punched, and pummeled by officers using their heavy police flashlights. He was dead by the time he reached Detroit Receiving Hospital.
Mayor Coleman Young roared in anger, declaring the beating "an outrage." In appearances on several national TV talk shows, he added that "I think it's murder." Witnesses to the beating
The beating could not be ignored. There were a number of witnesses, including crew members from two different ambulances, one that just happened to be passing by when the beating began. Ambulance driver Mithyim Lewis told investigators "I was shocked. I went back to the truck to try to remove myself from what was happening."
The beating was also witnessed by Sgt. Freddie Douglas, the only black among seven officers on the scene. Sergeant Douglas, who was the supervising officer, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for failing to stop the beating.
The two plainclothes officers who initially pulled Green over, Walter Budzyn and Larry Nevers, have been charged with second-degree murder. Residents of the westside neighborhood where Green was beaten say they had learned to fear the two officers. Dubbed "Starsky and Hutch," after two maverick cops from the 1970s television show, they had a reputation for violently taking the law into their own hands.
Uniformed Officer Robert Lessnau, who arrived in a backup squad car, was charged with assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder. Three other officers on the scene have been suspended without pay. While they don't face criminal charges, they could be drummed off the force.
"It's time for the healing process to start by putting this into the justice system," said Wayne County Prosecutor John O'Hair, as he announced the indictments.
The charges came 11 tense days after the beating. It was a time of tears and prayer - prayers not only for Green and his family, but also for the city. Hundreds gathered for a memorial service held on the wet pavement of West Warren Avenue near where Green had died. The beating, the police, racism all became topics ringing out from the pulpits of the city's churches, both black and white.
"Racism killed Malice Green," shouted the Rev. Charles Adams, pastor of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, as he delivered the eulogy for Green in a church packed with 1,500 mourners. Mr. Adams criticized the nation for its willingness to spend billions to liberate Kuwait, but little to solve the problems of its own inner cities.