6/11/2004 Newsletter


  • St. Paul Murder of James Cobb
  • Letter to McManus: End the Use of Freeze Plus P
  • CUAPB Collecting Stories of Police Brutality at Juneteenth
  • Goo Goo Dolls Features CUAPB on Fan Site

Exactly two weeks after the death in custody of Lorenzo Doby, another man has died--this time at the hands of the St. Paul Police.

James A. Cobb, 42, was reportedly walking bare-chested down the middle of Mounds Blvd in St. Paul, yelling and acting erratically. Five St. Paul police officers arrived and responded by spraying him with a chemical irritant, Tasering him, and beating him with their nightsticks. Once he was handcuffed, he collapsed and died.

Mr. Cobb is the fifth person to die in the Twin Cities area after the use of "non-lethal" weapons since last August. The others, Walter Burks, Anthony Williams, Raymond Siegler and Lorenzo Doby, were killed by Minneapolis police. In most of these cases, the individuals were "acting erratically" or showing signs of mental illness prior to their encounter with police. None of these individuals was armed or engaged in violent behavior.

We have raised the issues of the use of Freeze Plus P and positional asphyxia in discussions with Minneapolis Police Chief William McManus but, as yet, he has not seen fit to reply to our concerns. We intend to raise these same issues to St. Paul Police Chiefs Finney and Harrington.

One of the things that happens after these deaths in custody is that police spend their time looking for ways to justify their actions. In the past, Minneapolis has relied on biased investigations by "outside" agencies like the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department to clear the department. Now, Minneapolis is following the way of St. Paul and doing the investigations themselves. After all, why pay a middle man to do what you can do yourself--a superficial investigation that clears the officers and eliminates liability?

Here's the rub: These deaths will now be investigated by the Internal Affairs departments. In order to compel officers to cooperate in the investigation, these department use a US Supreme Court ruling called Garrity. This ruling says that employers can compel their employees to answer questions but they have to warn the employee first AND anything the employee says in the course of the investigation cannot be used to prosecute that employee later. So, the officer is given a Garrity warning by internal affairs as they kick off the investigation and even if there is gross wrongdoing by that officer, that officer cannot be prosecuted. Everything is kept in house. Pretty handy way to cover for brutal cops.

What is truly needed after any death at the hands of police is an INDEPENDENT investigation by a special prosecutor, not an internal investigation where everything can get swept under the rug. Families also need to be told they have a right to an independent autopsy. Some municipalities even pay for independent autopsies (they run $10-$15 thousand, out of the range of most families).

Please join us as we demand an end to deaths in custody and the cover-up investigations that follow at our FORCE THE TRUTH Rally on June 25th at 5:00 p.m. at the Federal Court Building, 300 S. 4th Street in Minneapolis. Help us spread the word--download a PDF of our flyer, make copies and get them out at your group, church, job, everywhere. For a PDF of the flyer, go to http://www.charityadvantage.com/CUAPB/FORCETHETRUTHFlyer.asp The time is now for people to stand up and say enough is enough--no more deaths in custody, no more phony investigations, no more police brutality! Join us!

We sent the following letter to Minneapolis Police Chief William McManus. Let's hope he will heed the words of this letter so that fewer people will die in custody.
Dear Chief McManus:
In light of the most recent death of a community member while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), we write to demand in the strongest possible terms that the MPD immediately end the use of Freeze Plus P.

Numerous studies show that the active ingredients in Freeze Plus P, oleoresin capsicum (OC) and orthochlorobenzalmalononitrile (CS tear gas), can cause severe respiratory distress. Freeze Plus P is potentially lethal in vulnerable individuals, particularly those with pre-existing restrictive or obstructive respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema.

There have been a total of at least three deaths in the last ten months associated with the use of Freeze Plus P. Lorenzo Doby died on May 26, 2004 after MPD officers used the chemical irritant to subdue him. Mr. Doby had asthma. In August 2003, Walter Burks, 36, and Anthony M. Williams, 28, died in police custody after the use of Freeze Plus P. Mr. Burks had emphysema. Mr. Williams' autopsy records have not yet been released.

Significantly, all of the individuals who have died in the last ten months after exposure to Freeze Plus P have been African American men. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies indicate that African American men suffer from asthma at rates four to five times higher than whites. For this reason alone, Freeze Plus P should not be used by MPD officers in non-life threatening circumstances. To continue to do so is to knowingly play Russian roulette with the lives of members of our community.

Again, we demand that your department cease and desist the use of Freeze Plus P.
We are adding many links to our website with information on so-called "less lethal" weapons, including Freeze Plus P and other chemical irritants. Check tomorrow at www.CUAPB.org to see a very indepth array of links on this subject.

CUAPB has had a booth in the Minneapolis Juneteenth Festival every year for as long as we have existed. Besides politically-oriented games, displays and literature, this year's booth will have a special feature. We will have volunteers on hand to give people an opportunity to tell their stories and become part of our community class action lawsuit against the Minneapolis Police Department.

In July 2003, CUAPB and other organizations worked with local civil rights attorney Jill Clark to launch a multi-class federal class action lawsuit to force changes in Minneapolis Police Department policies and practices. This is truly the community's lawsuit--everyone involved in it is a volunteer and the lawsuit will only be successful if we are able to bring forward hundreds of stories from the community. Stories of police brutality and misconduct will be used in the lawsuit to illustrate the extent of the problem and to highlight particular forms of abuse. Incidents must involve the Minneapolis Police Department and must have occurred in the last ten years. The identities of community members who participate in the lawsuit will be kept confidential.

Juneteenth is a celebration of the day, June 19, 1865, when General Galveston and union troops rode into Texas to inform slaves there about the emancipation proclamation, which had been signed some two years earlier. This date is marked by festivals all over the United States. As in years past, our local festival will be held on June 19th in Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis.

Any fan of the Goo Goo Dolls will tell you that they are very vocal about their progressive political beliefs, including being against war and police brutality. A part of their website promotes a group called Fans for Peace. If you go to http://www.fansforpeace.org/fans/index.htm you will see a picture of one of our board members, Janelle Colway, looking stunning carrying our signature sign in the Mayday parade. Happy viewing!

Communities United Against Police Brutality
2104 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

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