IN LOVING MEMORY
I have followed the coverage of the brutal and tragic death of Tyisha Miller in the Black Voice News. Like you, I am anguished over the extent of the viciousness visited on this young woman by the very body that is sworn to “serve and protect.” Recent events in New York City as well as Riverside are chilling reminders that evil is alive and well. I have struggled to find words of comfort, hope, and encouragement. They have come and gone, like early morning mist; evaporating with the warmth of the sun, returning to invade my sleep. Further complicating my anxiety was the equally despicable murder of Amadou Diallo in New York City.
When I think of Tyisha, I think of my own daughter. I grieve for her as a mother. After wrestling with what to say and how to say it, I am convinced that I must speak out on the prevalence of violence against our people by our law enforcement agencies. Tyisha did not die in vain: through her death many of you have come together to question, challenge, demand, protest and declare that such appalling behavior by those sworn to “serve and protect” will not be tolerated. You have done so with dignity, integrity and a firmness that says we really do understand the nature of the beast and we won’t be cowed or intimidated by it.
Tyisha was a beloved daughter, niece, granddaughter, in short: she was part of a family. Her place at the dinner table will be forever vacant. Her smile, way of expressing herself, the joy and pride her family felt are now precious memories, commingled with intense pain. As this year progresses, special days and holidays will test this family’s capacity to deal with her loss. What I want to know is this: did any of the police officers who so callously took her life think about their own children before pulling the trigger? Does city policy state that it’s okay to fire on someone who is obviously in distress? No matter how you frame the issues, there’s no reason, good, bad or otherwise, for the horrific way in which Tyisha was violated and literally destroyed. She was coldly deprived of her civil rights, her right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Her death is not merely a “loss.” Tyisha was somebody; she was also my future. She had within her the power to be, whatever her heart desired. Yet in her time of need, she was cruelly killed by the very people whose first concern should have been for her immediate safety.
Please tell me, if one has been trained in the use of firearms, how many bullets does it take to wipe out a human life? See I don’t understand how one can reconcile “service and protect” with even one bullet when the alleged “suspect” (for lack of a more dignified term) is essentially incapacitated? Spare me the stonewalling and don’t even suggest that it was an accident. Don’t insult my intelligence by defending the internal investigation process. We’re talking about murder on the job.
To the Family of Tyisha Miller:
I humbly offer my condolences. My prayer is that God, in His mercy, will wrap his arms of love around you and sustain you through this difficult time. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.” (Provers 3:5)
NOTE: The Greensboro News and Record published an article (Friday, May 7, 1999) announcing that the Riverside County [CA] District Attorney, Grover Trask, determined that the four police officers charged with murdering Ms. Miller were not criminally negligent in their handling of her situation. These officers shot twenty-three bullets into Tyisha’s car: four of them lodged in her head. He acknowledged poor judgment and mistakes. [CA] State Attorney General, Bill Lockyer endorsed the DA’s decision, citing “unwise and ill-conceived” police actions.
©1999 Holly Tree Publications LLP. Excerpted from A Taste of Theresa: Musings From My Point of View, by Theresa Bennett-Wilkes. All rights reserved.