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

From the ArkTimes store

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…

  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Why a change of leadership at the LRSD now?

    Johnny Key's abrupt, unilateral decision to not renew Baker Kurrus' contract as superintendent strikes us as shortsighted, misguided and detrimental to the education of our children and the health of our community.
    • Apr 21, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • War reporter

    Ray Moseley: Native Texan. Naturalized Arkansan. Reporter, world traveler, confidant of Queen Elizabeth II.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • Vote no on school tax

    I have never voted against a school tax in my life, but I will be voting against the debt service millage extension for the Little Rock School District.
    • May 4, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Football for UA Little Rock

    • He's BSC. Students and tuition-paying parents should be VERY vocal that a football program won't…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Pay attention

    • I have attended community meetings about the recent spike in violence in LR, and police…

    • on July 22, 2017
  • Re: Pay attention

    • Adawson's comments attribute the plight of black people in the United States to the War…

    • on July 22, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation