Favorite

Eugene Ellison: Little Rock's Michael Brown 

click to enlarge From left: Mike Laux and Eugene Ellison's sons, Spencer and Troy Ellison image
  • From left: Mike Laux and Eugene Ellison's sons, Spencer and Troy Ellison.

A couple of weeks ago I accompanied 10 students to St. Louis for a mass rally in support of indicting the police officer responsible for killing Michael Brown in mid-August. My students were pleasantly surprised to find how multiracial, multigenerational and ecumenical the thousands of protestors were. The purpose of the rally was to ensure justice was served on Brown's behalf by calling for the grand jury to indict the officer who killed him. On our way back to Little Rock I explained to the group that Brown is only one of dozens of black men who have been killed by the hands of the police in America.

In the past 30 years there have been ample examples of police brutality in almost every major city in the United States. In the same month Barack Obama was inaugurated as president of United States, Oscar Grant was killed by a police officer in a Metro station in Oakland, Calif. Two years prior in 2006, Sean Bell was killed by a fury of 50 gunshots in New York City. Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times in New York when reaching for his wallet in 1999. There are countless others: Malice Green in Detroit, Mich.; Flint Farmer in Chicago; and Kathryn Johnston in Atlanta, Ga. — all killed at the hands of the police.

In 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale started the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in a response to police brutality. The group began to "police the police" by arming themselves and then observing police matters in order to curb violence, repression and terrorism in their community. This program was quickly abated as the state of California and eventually the federal government systematically destroyed it.

Nowadays surveillance and oversight of police activities are carried out through organizations like Cop Watch and Cop Block, which encourage citizens who have been victims of police brutality to record and report alleged abuses in order to create a broader narrative of police misconduct around the nation. Unfortunately, in most cases individuals who report abuses against police officers do not see justice served on their behalf. A prime example of this is the story of Eugene Ellison of Little Rock.

On Dec. 9, 2010, Ellison, a 67-year-old black man, was killed in his home by Donna Lesher, an off-duty police officer. Ellison was involved in a confrontation with Lesher and Officer Tabitha McCrillis after the two came upon Ellison's open door while working off-duty security at the Big Country Chateau Apartments near University Avenue and went inside to investigate. The two officers called for backup. According to an on-duty officer who arrived on the scene, Lesher stepped outside the apartment. When Ellison picked up his cane, she shot him without issuing any warning.

An internal investigation into Ellison's killing by the LRPD homicide division cleared Lesher of all wrongdoing. Lesher's husband, Sgt. James Lesher, heads the division.

Ellison's sons — both veterans of the Little Rock Police Department — filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2011 alleging that their father's civil rights were violated. The case is still moving toward trial.

Just a few weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Holder and former President Bill Clinton held a forum, "Race Relations and Community Policing," in Little Rock. Attorneys representing the family of Ellison made a public request to the attorney general to investigate the LRPD "pattern and practice" of shootings similar to what happened in Ferguson, Mo.

According to Ellison's attorneys, Michael J. Laux and Ben H. Elson, from 2001 to 2014 there have been 107 police officer-involved shootings in Little Rock. Over half of the shootings were deadly force victims, 72 percent of whom were black. Also during these years there have been 192 complaints filed by Little Rock citizens against the LRPD, only seven of which were sustained. The attorneys argue that there exists a "code of silence" where Little Rock police officers are not being held accountable for misconduct allegations.

Eugene Ellison is the Michael Brown of Little Rock, and if nothing is done to bring justice for the Ellison family and address the police misconduct in the Little Rock Police Department, Little Rock could become Ferguson.

Dr. Joseph Jones is executive director of Philander Smith College's Social Justice Initiative.

Favorite

Speaking of Eugene Ellison

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

 

Comments are closed.

More by Joseph Jones

  • Arkansas Voter ID law racist

    On Thursday, the Arkansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging the state's voter ID law. Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled in May that the law is unconstitutional. If the court doesn't agree and overturns Fox's decision, the law will disenfranchise minority, elderly and economically impoverished communities all over the state. Arkansas will once again be on the wrong side of history and 50 years from now our children will wonder how such a law could be in effect.
    • Oct 9, 2014
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Banned in 2018

    Here's some arcana reeking of 2017 that I'm banning from consideration, attention, even out-loud mention in 2018. I'm unfriending all this 2017-reminding shit. It's dead to me in 2018.
    • Jan 11, 2018
  • A new statue to represent Arkansas in D.C.

    Like all states, Arkansas has two statues selected by the legislature to represent our state in the U.S. Capitol. Uriah Rose, a successful and innovative lawyer, and James P. Clarke, a former governor and U.S. senator, have represented Arkansas in National Statuary Hall for approximately 100 years.
    • Oct 11, 2018
  • Demand more

    I want you to think of the three biggest challenges facing Arkansas right now. Take a second and get them in your mind. Anything you come up with is great. Got them?
    • Oct 25, 2018

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Seeking a vision to thrive

    It's time for a new social contract that creates a comprehensive vision for thriving communities in both rural and urban places.
    • Nov 15, 2018
  • On school performance

    State Education Commissioner Johnny Key recently announced he intends to ask the state to grant principals the ability to fire teachers, without due process, in what the state considers failing schools. As a parent of a Little Rock School District student, I thought it would be prudent to share my analysis of the data provided by the Arkansas Department of Education
    • Nov 7, 2018
  • The conquering power of love

    I will always be a sports fan. I will always be a baseball guy. I will always be a lover of radio. But I am much more than that. I will also always be Jewish.
    • Nov 7, 2018
  • More »
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation