Today, it was announced that the police officer who killed unarmed Eric Garner in New York, was fired. It has taken five years for that decision.
On Jan. 2, 2004, unarmed Leslie Vaughn Prater died. The results of two official autopsy reports, one in Chattanooga and the other in Nashville, and conducted by different medical examiners, reported the findings. Their independent investigations determined that Leslie’s death was a homicide, resulting from positional asphyxia.
Homicide is defined as a killing of one human being by another. The actions of four Chattanooga police officers prevented Leslie from breathing. One has to breathe to live.
The officers were not held accountable and received no punishment for Leslie’s death. They were rewarded with a week off with pay (a vacation) and returned to their assignments.
There are many Chattanooga police officers who serve and protect all citizens, and deserve the designation of “Chattanooga’s Finest.” However, the department will never receive the level of respect and trust desired, from the community at large, as long as unlawful officers remain on the force.
After 15 years, I continue to ask, “When will the Chattanooga Police Department do the right thing?”
Dr. Loretta P. Prater, Mother of Leslie Prater
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With all due respect to Dr. Prater on the loss of her son, as with all black people dying in police incidents here is the rest of the story. On Feb. 2 of 2004 her son stopped his car on Central Avenue, got out of his car, stripped his clothes off and ran down the street acting erratically. Naturally some citizen called the police.
The officers arrived and Mr. Prater resisted arrest, was not subdued by pepper stray and finally the officers had to take him down.
Dr Prater was quoted in a newspaper article that even though her son used drugs in his 20's, now that he was in his 30's she was "sure" he wasn't on drugs in the night in question.
I am not a medical professional like Dr. Prater, but I don't think running down the street naked is the act of a rational person or someone not on drugs.
Ironically only 19 months earlier a young police officer named Julie Jacks confronted an unarmed naked black man who had just left Parkridge Hospital during a medical evaluation. Instead of shooting him she confronted him, he gained control of her weapon and murdered her in cold blood. White lives matter too, Dr. Prater.
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That's quite an exaggeration and a lot of padding on the part Douglas Jones in response to Dr. Prater. The truth is, the cop who initially showed up when a call was made had the situation under control and was walking Leslie Prater to the cop's or his car. The person who initially made the call later admitted she regretted it. She actually thought the police would arrive to help and not do any harm, and certainly not kill. Even she recognized the situation for what it was. A young man possibly in a medical or mental distress.
Also, it's another exaggeration or outright lie to say Leslie was running. If that's in the report it must have been sneaked in at some later date. The same as a fake report suddenly materialized when my son, USAF home leave, was assaulted by one of two local cops who stopped him WWB (walking while black). In my son's encounter, initially there was no report, and it was called in as a 'field interview' where at the time no written reports were made, and the cop or cops only had to call in stating they stopped this person, kindly talked to them, everyone shook hands and cop and GQ citizen went their separate ways (they may have included a footnote or something claiming "citizen thanked them for 'keeping everyone safe'--and taking a 'bite out of crime:)." The truth is, many of those so-called 'field interviews' cops used as an opportunity to harass, threaten or even get rough and physical with the victim. It was only afterwards and my speaking out and up that the fake 'written report' suddenly materialized and even later when all 'field-interviews' with citizens were accompanied with a written report and not just a call in from the cop.
The truth in the tragic death of Leslie Prater is it was only when those other cops showed up on the scene where the first cop had matters under control, that the blue tribalism kicked in, things got brutal and everything that could go wrong did, leading to Mr. Leslie being killed.
After reading more about Leslie Prater's death I came to realize very little of what was fed to the public or even in reports by the CPD were true. It also reminded me how nearly 10 months later my own son, USAF home on a short leave as his wife was preparing to be deployed to Iraq in a few months, and they wanted to come home and visit family members before the unit was placed on base restriction, he came very close to meeting the same fate as Leslie Prater while merely walking after dark on the very street he was born and spent the better part of growing up before enlisting in Air Force.
Douglas, there were multiple lies about what actually happened in my son's encounter with CPD's 'finest' too. Those lies are still floating around today, and that was nearly 15 years ago.
Periodically, one of the two cops involved in my own son's experience here has been in the news from time to time over the years since. He actually got a promotion, and later was involved with a group of other cops in a lawsuit against the city. The city settled.
Instead of police heads doing the right thing and addressing the problem, I found myself on the receiving end of harassment, threats, stalking, defamation, more lies than could filled a stadium. Why? To protect a cop or cops with perhaps serious social and possibly psychological and mental problems? Theirs certainly weren't the makings of honorable, sane cops capable of rational thinking.
To this day my son, like many young black males who left Chattanooga during that period, rarely return even to visit. And when they do they don't stick around the city for very long. Far too many bad memories. They made great gains by leaving Chattanooga behind, bad memories and all.
It was the Chattanooga climate of the time and who was in charge of the police department, on the city council even, along with the attitudes of many citizens, black and white, that lead to the brutal death of Mr. Prater, and the attack on my son by local police and so many other young black males during that period.
Please take time to read Dr. Prater's book, "Excessive Use Of Force-'One Mother's Struggle Against Police Brutality and Misconduct'." You'll learned quite a lot. Most of all, you'll learn the truth.
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The response to Dr. Prater's letter was disturbing. Attacking the memory of Dr. Prater’s deceased son is so wrong. I don’t know where to begin, or why this requires explanation.
Every life is more than just one event.
Dr. Prater raised her son, and faced the ultimate tragedy of losing her child. What is worse than this circumstance as a parent?
You can be assured that Dr. Prater knows every detail of every report, more so than the combination of all media sources and government.
Mental psychosis or delirium from drugs or mental illness is not cause for the government to take the life of an unarmed citizen, unless there is immediate danger to life. If I polled 1,000 attorneys, they would agree with this statement.
At the same time, government must have the ability to gain control of people in crisis to help them. That is the quandary. Surely technology is providing better options for those in mental psychosis that are unable to follow directions and commands issued during encounters.
I personally admire Dr. Prater for her ability to take deep and enduring pain, and turn that pain into substantive change and action.
That being said, Dr. Prater and Ms. Washington may believe that race is the driver. I believe that socioeconomics drives government perceptions and ultimately responses. However, I have not walked in their shoes. They may have life experience that supports their belief.
Dr. Prater, I am certain your work has resulted in our local governments improving greatly in the handling mental health response, better than they ever have in the past, with crisis intervention teams. Then I have been following Sheriff Hammond’s work in ensuring that mental health is not criminalized by placing the mentally ill in the general population, at least that is my understanding. I think Sheriff Hammond has a huge and genuine heart for these circumstances, based upon wide scale policy changes.
The crisis intervention teams are worthy of telling government they have improved, not perfect, but improved.
Dr. Prater, please consider your contribution to this progress. Also know, Dr. Prater and Brenda Washington, your opinion is as valuable as anyone else that writes.
I pray for peace and resolution for the Prater family in the face of lingering pain.