Police released a statement Jan. 14 claiming that the Black youth was shot twice in the back while resisting arrest.
The police say Waiters attempted to grab the cop’s weapon while being handcuffed. “During the struggle, our officer discharged his service weapon mortally wounding Waiters,” the statement read.
That version differs sharply from the account given to the Waiters family attorney and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation by two eyewitnesses. “I saw Ariston look back then run and pow, the officer shot him. He continued to run then pow, the officer shot him again,” said one of them, Amber Dorsey, according to CBS Atlanta News.
“How can somebody being handcuffed reach for your gun and you shoot them in the back twice?” John Tillman, an electrician at the rally, told the Militant. Tillman said he hoped the Fulton County District Attorney would investigate the case. “What we got the other day was the cops investigating themselves.”
Several participants in the rally told the Militant they had decided to join in because of their own experiences with the cops. “I brought my 12-year-old son with me tonight so he could see we are doing something about how we are treated,” said Tabitha Boyce, a postal worker. “My friends are hesitant to come to Union City because of the police,” she said.
Michael Harris, an unemployed mechanic in nearby College Park, said he had been threatened with arrest after being stopped by cops for a missing tail light. After questioning him and searching his car, the cops let him go. “I checked my tail lights and they were all working. When I asked the cops about it they just said it wasn’t working a minute ago.”
Speaking at the rally, Marcus Coleman of the National Action Network denounced the police statement as another attempt to cover up the shooting. “We want to know what will be done about police intimidation of witnesses, the shooter being allowed to sit in on interviews with witnesses, and another officer visiting a witness on her job.”
CBS reported a Union City Police captain confirmed that the cop who shot Waiters was allowed into the interrogation room with potential witnesses. Attorney Mawuli Davis said that the statement of one witness was torn up by the cops.
“We must keep the pressure on and keep rallying and demanding answers,” said Derrick Boazman, a former city councilman in nearby Atlanta and radio personality, speaking at the rally. Several speakers also called for getting out the vote to replace local government officials.
David Ferguson, a factory assembly worker, spoke on behalf of the Atlanta branch of the Socialist Workers Party during the open mike portion of the rally. “This shooting is part of the broader assaults on working people as the system of the wealthy rulers goes deeper into crisis,” Ferguson said. “It goes hand in hand with high unemployment, and temporary jobs with low pay and no benefits,” he said to applause.
Inside the city council chambers Freda Waiters, mother of the slain youth, gave an impassioned plea for action. Councilwoman Angelette Mealing said that there needed to be an investigation of the entire police department and that the city should have offered condolences to the Waiters family.
According to Channel 2 News Mealing in a follow-up interview described the killing of Waiters as murder.
On Jan. 5 the Waiters family and their supporters met with the Fulton County District Attorney, whose office is investigating the shooting. The family’s attorney said he expects a response in about a month.
The Fulton DA is also investigating the killing of another Black youth in October by a MARTA transit cop. Joetavius Stafford, 19 years old, was shot in the back twice and chest once.
In the last fiscal year state investigators have conducted 100 reviews of cases of police force reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Of those, 24 involved police shootings.
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