I Just Want My Son's Name Cleared - And Response (6)

Monday, October 10, 2016

My son's position with the military requires security clearance at various levels. Some of those clearances are more restrictive than others. The more sensitive his position becomes as he moves up, the more restrictive the security clearance he will be to pass. I know this from another family member whose career was investigating military person needing a security clearance. There are actually different levels of security clearance requirement. Low level security clearances are not all that difficult to past, but high level security clearances, depending on the job, can be difficult to near impossible to obtain a clearance.  

In a recent response the an opinion I wrote on the Chattanoogan, there were false accusations made against my son and me. Things that never took place. Nothing in that response was true. I don't know if the person who responded to me just made up stuff as he went along or if the person he spoke with lied, or confused my son and me with someone else. I just want to set the record straight clear both my son and my names, but especially my son, since he can be the one most negatively impacted due to his military position.  

First, out of the near 40 years I've lived at the same address no cop has ever "chased" anyone into my home, especially not my son or any relative for that matter. It just never happened. If it had, it's very doubtful an arrest wouldn't have taken place, along with a seriously beating or worse, due to the mindset of many of the cops on the force at that time. Some were simply brutal. I know stories from some of the other young men who lived in the community at the time, now gone.  

Second, my son has never been stopped at East Lake Courts for any reason, not even a traffic violation, because he's never been to East Lake Courts. I know the cop in question expects to be believed because, after all, this is a black male and (all) black males are stereotyped as being up to no good, but it simply never happened. 

Like many eager to 'serve their country' during the crisis in early 2000, my son enlisted full time active duty in the United States Air Force not long after graduating high school and doing a brief college entry, working a job and once owning his a business (yes, business licenses and all, legal, just in case anyone has doubt).  After enlisting, he rarely had the time to even return to Chattanooga. And on the one few times he did, a weekend with his wife who was due to be deployed to Iraq the first part of the upcoming year (they came home nearly two months before January, the month she was to be deployed) is when he was assaulted on the street he was born and grew up by one of two cops on the scene. Yes, unlike previously mentioned, there were originally actually two, not one cops at the scene. Because the cop doing the assaulting was facing the opposite direction, he didn't see someone approaching, walking up the hilly street. The other cop did, and that's when he took off (I witnessed him taking off, so that means I was there). I guess he didn't want to have to be a witness against the cop doing the assaulting or explain why he didn't do anything to stop it.  

The reason my son and his wife returned home on that brief weekend leave nearly two months before her deployment was her unit was due to be placed on base restriction only, due to their pending deployment to Iraq. Once on base restriction, for those who do not understand it, that means no one in the unit being deployed can leave base at all.. Not even for a weekend once the base restriction is in place. Having been the spouse of a full time military person and having family members in the military during the Vietnam era, I understand the procedure because I've lived it . The restriction was due to begin the following week, I believe. The encounter with the cop took place on a Saturday night before midnight and not at 2 a.m. I don't know where that 2 a.m. is coming from.  It just never happened during the early am hours of what would have been a Sunday morning.  

The only time any cops physically showed up at my house was a week or so later after my son and his wife had long returned to their perspective military units on base. No one came to my house the night the incident took place. One of the two cops night-supervisor (black)  I recognized as having been in the news on another illegal matter, and the other was a female cop (also black). I didn't immediately recognize but would later realize she and a sister (living in California then and now) had been friends and had gone to the same school and were on the cheerleader squad together. I did allow both in, although I was skeptical because of what had been in the news about the black male cop. However, explaining themselves, I thought they came because they were interested in what their cops were doing in the community, diving it and creating situations I felt would later become explosive and divisive, it been a highly racially mixed community and all, where many, regardless of race were related. I mistakenly trusted them to do the right thing and that they would take whatever measures to correct any problems. I was wrong.  A mistake I won't likely make again.

From the very beginning the lies started to fly. That I called the cop a racial slur I'd never used, had never been a part of my vocabulary and that's when I realized they hadn't come at all out of concern for the citizen or gather information and weigh the facts, but to protect their cop by any means necessary. The black supervisor was somewhat unfriendly, but not quite hostile. The black female cop is the one who warned me the department heads would believe their officers over anything my son or I had to say. In other words, don't bother complaining. Then again, in parting, as they were leaving, the female cop made another subtle warning (threat actually) to the effect "we always get ours" or something like that. Then she saw a picture of my sister on the wall she'd gone to school with, recognizing her and tried to act a bit friendly, but I got the message loud and clear. Because not long after that is when strange things (I won't go into here) began to really happened. Even strange phone calls with garble radio talk (like from a police radio) on the other end, but nothing else (I have a private number). That was one of many strange and disturbing things that began to happen, and actually continued on for well over a year or more, die down and kick back up again when I wrote anything remotely pertaining to police misconduct.  

If such a lie can be told on a young man honorably serving the country and protecting fellow Americans, it's disturbing to think the lies that have likely been told on the average citizen going about their daily business. If Chattanooga is serious about their police outreach to citizens efforts, they can start with the types still on the force who abuse their power over citizens then lie to cover it all up, believing just because they wear a badge and uniform no one will dare question their them and will always favor them and take their side, ignoring the concerns of the citizens who attempt to shed light on problems within the community with potentially bad apples on the force. Otherwise, why go through the motions pretending at all if it's going to turn out to be nothing more than P.R.? This is not to deflect away from Chief Fletcher. My Texas family who knows him have long admired him. His attempts at community outreach are sincere, I believe. Just maybe some of those from the old brigade still hanging on, may not be on the same page with him.  

Bottom line, if there are any reports out there traveling around on my son, verbal or on paper, they are false. I just want to clear my son's name, because there are no heights high enough that he hasn't tried to conquer. He's been a goal setter all his life, even from a very young age. I never had to push him to do. In fact, there were times I had to try and slow him down. It was just always his desire to rise above and beyond any obstacles or stereotypes anyone may try to place on him or in his path.  

Brenda Washington 

* * *

Although Mrs. Washington and I have never met, she is always in my heart and prayers. It takes courage and strength to speak the truth, in opposition to lies reported by some police officials.  Because she refuses to remain silent, in the face of injustice and the “Blue Wall,” I know she understands the risks.  

Many others have stories they could tell of injustice, but choose to remain silent. I am not judging them for their decision, although I believe that silence empowers injustice. Those remaining silent realize that there is a system in place that refuses to acknowledge the possibility that dishonest people could be employed among honest police officers.

I am so proud of her for not allowing bullies to deface her reputation or that of her family members.  I’ll continue to pray that God will protect her, as she travels the journey toward justice, while sometimes being among a few who are willing to give voice to truth. I thank her for the unsolicited support she has extended to other families, as well. 

Dr. Loretta P. Prater 

* * *

In response to Brenda Washington's and Loretta Prater's opinions, like everyone else, here is mine.  I'm not familiar with what Brenda is talking about so I won't direct my response solely towards her. But I remember reading news stories about Loretta Prater's son. With that being said, why are we focusing on a story about a guy who did not follow commands by law enforcement officers?  It's simple, whether you are white, black, Hispanic, Muslim, male or female - follow their instructions and if you are guilty of speeding, stealing, etc then take your punishment like a grown up, if you're a minor still take it like a grown up since you are deciding to make grown up decisions.

Instead of getting upset because someone broke the law and got injured or killed by law enforcement, how about we worry and write/speak opinions and strategies on how to end the violence in Chattanooga?  Seven people shot in 48-72 hour time frame, six injured and one killed. All in one weekend, the weekend before the start of fall break. Where is the out cry about them?

Gang banger or not, they deserve to live too, don't they? Or do we only care when they are injured or killed by law enforcement?  Quit sugarcoating your real issue and just bluntly state you are anti-law enforcement if other lives don't matter anymore than your own families if they aren't killed or injured by police.

I'm sick of seeing the "hands up don't shoot" nonsense because if you would have followed instructions in the first place of keep your hands up or visible then you wouldn't have gotten shot, more than likely. Let's end the violence in every aspect of a person's life instead of focusing on one person's career path that can result in injury or death to others. 

#PrayForPeace
Jessica Russell 

* * *

Dear Ms. Washington and Dr. Prator, 

I read the appalling attacks against both of your children. As a mom, I could feel the pain these words must have caused each of you. 

My favorite attorney always tells me that everyone’s opinions have value. The words of your detractors sought to hurt you with your children to shut your opinion down. Reasonable people view the attacks on your children for your opinions as the action of cowards. 

When cowards cannot refute your issues, there will be a few that attack you personally, and there is nothing more powerful to hurt a mother than throwing daggers towards their children in a public venue. 

I know that had to be very hurtful, believe me, I understand that kind of pain. 

However, those hate laced words were intended to silence each of you. I would recommend turning up the volume, because once someone hurts your children, or the memory of your child, the haters are out of ammo. 

I am sad that Ms. Washington felt she has to defend her child in this public venue, but I do understand why she would. The good news, ladies, is that the haters have their own baggage records. 

I would recommend filing open records to the city of Chattanooga and collecting your own data on the haters that felt that targeting your children in a public venue was a good decision.  The gloves are off once you attack a person’s deceased child.  

I noticed in the hate letters to each of you they invited you to meetings and posted data only they could possess under the color of their employment.   It was very difficult to distinguish between their writing under the color employment or as a private citizen, due to the invitation extended to Dr. Prator in an employment capacity. 

Dancing in the gray was very apparent. Speaking in a private voice means there must be delineation between work and private. There was no delineation, because invitations for meetings were extended. 

I would be happy to discuss the appropriate course of acquiring the information you need under open records, if you wish. In fact, I think I have a file number that may assist you. 

My heart broke for both of you, and the cruelty contained in the attacks on both of your children.

It serves absolutely no purpose to attack the memories of your deceased child, or those children that have moved beyond any alleged youthful mistakes. After all, a period of drug use should not define the entire life of anyone. 

Hearts to both of you, regardless of any differences, I feel your pain. Don’t let detractors silence you.  

It is our government too, and it is everyone's right to bring up issues that concern them without attacking their children. 

April Eidson 

* * * 

Ms. Washington, 

I am glad to see more information regarding your son. You have referenced him before but I did not know the details. I would like to thank both of you for his military service and the military service of your other family members. I am not a veteran but my family has a rich history of serving the U.S. through military service. 

I still have some questions regarding the incident you related and I will list them here.  Is there a police report of the incident?  If so, how do the details compare to your account? You stated that your son was assaulted, but not exactly what form the assault took.  Was it verbal, physical or
both? Was he handcuffed? Was he charged with a crime? How did he respond to the officer[s]. What reason did the officer[s] give for approaching him? Has something been placed on his "record" that shows up in a background check? Have you sought legal advice regarding the incident? Have you had conversations with any other personnel in the police department besides the officers that came to your home? 

I ask these questions becasue I can see pain in your writing. I have a young relative that had years of encounters with law enforcement [not in Chattanooga]. I was very close to the situation and I carry a lot of memories about things I saw that disturbed me deeply. I also remember many instances that have inspired me to keep my faith in our law enforcement. 

I would sincerely like to communicate with you about your son's experience. I do not feel comfortable listing my personal email here, but I have a facebook account under my name. I thought that I had found a facebook profile that belonged to you once but I may have been mistaken. There is much I cannot write in this open forum. Trust me, you will relate to what I have to tell you. Thank you for your consideration. I pray that you can find resolution for yourself and your son. 

Teddy Ladd
Ooltewah 

* * *

Their will always be someone who is dissatisfied with the way our fine police department works.  If the incident is documented by the police as a violation then unfortunately most times the name can’t be cleared.  You would need to hire an attorney and go to court and hope to reverse the decision of the law in an attempt to clear the person’s name. 

Wrong is wrong and right is right.  As a young man I violated the law and my parents tried convincing the courts that I did nothing wrong.  A parent always wants to feel their son or daughter is never wrong.  Unfortunately that’s not the way it works. 

Look in the mirror, search your soul, quit point fingers and realize your loved one may be wrong. 

Just the way it is. 

Michael Mansfield

* * * 

To Brenda Washington, I stand with you.  I am an Air Force vet and the father of Leslie V. Prater.  I commend you for the stance you have taken.  I know where you are coming from on this matter whereas others can only conjecture or even deny the truth. It has been said that many people sit in their ivory towers and look down.  Others sit in the comfort of their domain looking out.  Others just sit and fail to see.  I remember the following words of Dr. Martin Luther King: 

“On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right? 

There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.” 

In response to comments by Jessica Russell and Michael Mansfield, I must say you have your opinions and this one is mine.  My opinion is based on the factual evidence in the case of the death of my son, Leslie V. Prater.  Your opinions seem to be based on information disseminated by the Chattanooga Police Department and possibly your own so called personal conjectures.  The problem with that is neither of you has firsthand experience or knowledge about my son’s death.  Is seems as though you’re trying to deflect attention away from the real truth of the matter. 

First of all, I must say, All Lives Matter.  Ms. Russell I noticed that your tag is #PrayForPeace.  Maybe it should be changed to #PrayForJustice/Peace.  It seems as though you want peace at the expense of real justice. You mentioned “Instead of getting upset because someone broke the law and got injured or killed by law enforcement…”  Are you insinuating that it unreasonable to get upset when law enforcement groups break the law?   Well, Ms. Russell, they broke the law in the case of our son.  Maybe not in your eyes, they did nothing wrong.  Our son was beaten with 23 broken bones and placed faced down in the dirt causing positional asphyxia (suffocation).  He wasn’t resisting arrest or anything of that nature.  I suggest you read more with an open understanding of the issue.  So you want to #PrayForPeace.  I pray for both justice and peace.

Mr. Mansfield, I truly believe in the police department when they are doing that which is right.  It seems as though you paint with a broad stroke a picture of having a fine police department.  Often I paint on canvas with broad strokes, but not reality.  Your broad stroke paints a picture of a police department that is remarkably free of flaws, but in reality this is untrue.  There are underlying fractures and blemishes that you’re not taking into consideration when you say “fine police department.”  You have heard that a few bad apples spoil the barrel.  So, let me tell you that a few bad policemen can spoil the whole department, just as a few bad apples can do so in the barrel.   When those tainted officers are allowed to remain on the force or moved to other jurisdictions, your fine painting becomes flawed.  You mentioned "Look in the mirror, search your soul, quit point fingers and realize your loved one may be wrong.”  I say to you Mr. Mansfield, Look in the mirror, search your soul and realize that the police can do wrong and has done wrong in many instances." 

Dwight A. Prater



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