The families of five young men who died following altercations with Boston Police — Usaama Rahim, Terrence Coleman, Burrell Ramsey-White, Ross Batista and Juston Root — gathered at Franklin Park in Roxbury Tuesday to demand that the deaths be investigated, and that the cases be reopened.
At a rally organized by Mass Action Against Police Brutality on the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, Ramsey-White’s mother, Carla Sheffield, asked a crowd of around 100 people to help reopen the case involving her son, who was shot and killed by Boston Police following a traffic stop in 2012.
“I am going to fight tooth and nail until I get the justice that my son, Burrell Anthony Ramsey-White deserves and I am looking for any and all help,” Sheffield, 56, told the crowd. “The case may be over, but I am not gone. I am coming for each and every one of y’all who had a hand in the murder of my son. I’m not going anywhere.”
Last month, former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd — the first time such a conviction has been won against a white Minnesota officer for killing a Black man.
“The struggle continues, and the pressure has to still be put on,” Mass Action organizer Brock Satter told GBH News. “We need to stay in the streets, not only for George Floyd, but for all victims of police violence all across the country.”
Tahia Sykes of Mass Action says George Floyd is just one of hundreds of thousands of cases of police misconduct that need to be reexamined.
“Let’s be clear, guys. We’ve gotten some, and I mean a little bit, of justice, because Chauvin has been convicted,” Sykes told the crowd Tuesday. “Now let’s see how much time he gets.” Chauvin is scheduled to be sentenced June 25.
“There are already laws in the books that say it’s illegal to do what they’ve done to us,” Sykes continued.
In October of 2016, Hope Coleman says she called for an ambulance for her son Terrance, a 31-year-old Black man who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, in the hopes of getting medical assistance.
“I called the ambulance, but the police came,” Coleman told the crowd Tuesday. “I said, I didn't call for you, I called for the ambulance. They said, 'Oh, we’ll give it a try.' I said 'No.'”
An altercation with police followed, and Officer Garrett Boyle shot Terrence Coleman twice in the abdomen, killing him.
Then-District Attorney Daniel Conley declined to press charges, saying that because Coleman allegedly swung a kitchen knife at officers and emergency medical technicians, Boyle was justified in shooting him.
In 2018, Hope Coleman filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, arguing that police used “excessive force” and were not properly trained to handle a person with mental illness.
At the rally, Coleman repeated the demand to provide an alternative to police for mental health crisis situations.
“I called for help, I didn't call for you to kill my son. If I had known they were going to kill my son, I would have never called 911,” Coleman said. “We need to have somebody to help with mental health when somebody's in crisis. The police don't know how to handle them, all they know how to do is just shoot.”
Rahimah Rahim, whose son Usaama was shot dead by law enforcement officers in Boston in 2015, demanded that Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins release the names of all officers involved in unnecessary force cases, and create a registry of those officers. Rahim says she also wants a public apology for her family members who have been investigated and monitored as part of an alleged terrorism conspiracy investigation.
“That's what justice looks like to me,” Rahim said. “Open all the cases, prosecute the police and their supervisors and anybody else involved in the cover up of the murder of our people.”
Family members and protesters called on Gov. Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, DA Rollins and other elected officials to reopen the cases and begin new investigations.
Evan Root and his daughter Jennifer Root Bannon have filed a lawsuit against the Boston police over the case of Juston Root, a 41-year-old Mattapan resident who was fatally shot by police in February of last year after leading officers in a car chase down Route 9.
“They killed my brother instead of apprehending him,” Root Bannon said. “You better believe I am never stopping until this case is reopened. I have dedicated my life to this, and I don't want any more families to have to go through this either.”
On August 28, more than 260 families across the country plan to organize a national day of action, calling for the reopening of cases involving their loved ones who they say died as a result of police brutality and violence.
“All of us impacted families, we are united,” Root Bannon said. “We want everyone else to unite and support us so we can see the change that we want to have happen.”