Last week, a group of church friends held a town hall meeting in Brunswick, Ga. Their purpose is embodied in their name: Justice For Caroline Small.
She was killed by police in June of 2010. Her death was as outrageous as those of Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and Tamir Rice, but has received a fraction of the attention.
Unless you live in Georgia or North Florida, you probably don’t know her story. It goes like this:
A police officer responds to a call of a woman doing drugs in a parking lot. When he tells her to shut off the car, she takes off. A four mile, low-speed chase ensues. It ends when a police car bumps her vehicleto a stop.
With one police car sitting nose to nose, another on her passenger side, a utility pole behind her, a ditch on her left and all four tires gone, Small has nowhere to go. Still, she shifts uselessly into reverse and then forward.
Police yell at her to get out. Instead, she tries again. Sgt. Corey Sasser and Officer Todd Simpson open fire.
Afterward, they discuss their marksmanship.
Simpson waves off a former EMT who approaches to give aid. “She’s dead. I shot her in the head. Her head exploded.”
Small actually died seven days later. Sasser and Simpson were cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury and by internal affairs. A civil suit was dismissed.
Justice for Caroline Small was formed last year after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a local ABC News affiliate investigated and found that policeinterfered with an “independent” probe, while the district attorney deferred to them at every step.
The investigation also concludes police tampered with the crime scene and manufactured misleading evidence. Grand jurors were led to believe Small had room to maneuver her car and could have run the officers down. The dash cam video proves the unarmed woman was hemmed in and posed no immediate threat.
Justice for Caroline Small is calling for a new investigation of the shooting and a probe of the police department. In a nation that thinks of the police shooting of unarmed people and the protests thereof as a black thing, they are an anomaly. Visit JusticeForCaroline.com and you will find, as one told an AJC reporter, “old-time, white, middle-class people.”
They provide a wordless reminder that, although African Americans bear the brunt of our unwillingness to demand accountability for police misbehavior, unchecked power has no racial loyalties.
As a member named Kay Allen told the AJC, this shooting of a 35-year-old white woman “changes in some ways the way that you view the police and just thinking they are there to protect you. And it’s kind of like, ‘Well, maybe not. Maybe there’s another side to things that we don’t always know about.’”
It is the kind of dawning realization that often precedes enlightenment. Justice For Caroline Small might be a small step toward justice for us all.