9.03.2008

FinalCall.com Story: A Taser death stuns Birmingham, Alabama

FinalCall.com National News
A Taser death stuns Birmingham, Alabama
By Jesse Muhammad
Reposted from http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_5165.shtml


(FinalCall.com) - “The police thought I was going to keep quiet but I’ve been raising hell. I want justice. They took my son’s life unjustly and it’s not a good feeling,” Corene Dixon told The Final Call in a phone interview.

The Aug. 19 interview came two weeks after she led a rally in Kelly Ingram Park to demand justice for her son, Willie Maye, whose death was caused by a Birmingham, Ala. police officer, according to the Jefferson County coroner.

For Ms. Dixon, the next moves are a lawsuit pending a final review from the District Attorney’s office and more protests to “keep the pressure on.”

Like a recent case in Winnfield, La., the Jefferson County coroner ruled Mr. Maye’s death a homicide. “He had a bad heart, but the adrenalin from fleeing from the police first, the scuffle, the bruises he sustained, the physical exertion, the Taser and the mace—all the ingredients together resulted in his death,” said Chief Deputy Coroner Pat Curry in the Birmingham News.

“I cry almost every day. I feel that the police are trying to cover this up like it was justifiable, but we are going to continue to fight,” said Ms. Dixon. “They beat him, sprayed him with mace and tased him to death. My son didn’t deserve this.”

According to a Birmingham police department report, Mr. Maye, who was Black, arrived at a checkpoint on June 5 near Hibernian Street. Officers reportedly smelled marijuana and said Mr. Maye did not have a driver’s license or proof of insurance.Police said Mr. Maye was asked to pull over but fled in the vehicle, prompting a police pursuit.

Officers said the car chase ended and Mr. Maye attempted escape on foot.A tussle began when officers tried to apprehend him and Mr. Maye was handcuffed, sprayed with mace and Tased, said the authorities. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

“These officers must now have their day in court and it must be done expeditiously so the family of Mr. Maye can have closure,” said Hezekiah Jackson IV, president of the Metro-Birmingham chapter of the NAACP, which took part in the rally.

The names and racial identity of the officers involved have remained unannounced, which Ms. Dixon said is to “avoid racial tension.”

“I’m not surprised they are not disclosing the identities of the officers. We as a people have been dealing with this type of injustice since the ’60s. Now things are starting to repeat themselves,” Mr. Jackson told The Final Call.

“He [Mr. Maye] was not driving the car, he was a passenger. We’ve got pictures of the bruises and dents in his body that show his body was still swollen when it got to the coroner’s office,” said Ms. Dixon.

Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper told ABC 33/40 news reporters, “The best thing that we can do is conduct a full and impartial investigation, turn those results over to other agencies, which we have done, and let them do their job.”

Legal action brewing

“I don’t care if he was smoking five marijuana sticks in his mouth,” family attorney Stewart Springer, said to ABC 33/40 news.“You don’t stop somebody and then beat them to death.”

“I’m not stating that all policemen are bad, but the ones that killed my son do not deserve to have a badge,” Ms. Dixon told to The Final Call.

Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber commented to ABC 33/40 news that his office is investigating to see whether the actions taken by the police were justifiable. District Attorney Barber did not say when the review should be complete.

The Birmingham City Council unanimously voted June 26 to suspend use of Tasers by police until the investigation into Mr. Maye’s death was complete. Their vote was overruled by Mayor Larry Langford.

Related link:

Taser death ruled a homicide, family wants justice (FCN, 08-12-2008)