Community questions police killing of TaVontae Haney

| May 9, 2013

Frost Illustrated Staff Report

FORT WAYNE—A number of local activists, including representatives of the Fort Wayne Branch of the NAACP are raising questions about the April 27 fatal police shooting of 19-year-old TaVontae Jamar Haney.

According to police reports, Haney was shot during a foot pursuit after police officers stopped the vehicle in which he was riding. According to police reports, Haney fled the vehicle after an initial traffic stop and brandished a weapon during the pursuit and subsequently was shot and killed. Media reports issued after the shooting said Haney had warrants, but community members are questioning why police shot and killed a man who appeared to be fleeing and therefore presented no danger to officers. In subsequent media reports, Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York was quoted as saying the officers—identified as Officer Cameron Norris, a two-year veteran of the Fort Wayne Police Department, and Officer John Drummer, a 17-year veteran of the department—killed Haney to protect themselves.

But, some in the community are questioning if the shooting was actually necessary, especially in the wake of rumors circulating that Haney was shot in the back and other conflicting accounts from the streets and conflicting reports from people in the area as to whether he was armed or not. Police reports indicate, however, that a weapon was found near Haney’s body.

Media reports also have surfaced that Drummer, in addition to having three letters of commendation for service also has had his share of run-ins with police authorities. Those reports indicate he was suspended in 1997 for disobeying orders and again that year for filing false reports, and received letters of reprimand for improper conduct in 1996 and 1998 and two more for vehicle crashes in 1997 and 2004.

Both officers are on administrative leave after the shooting as required by department policy.

Because the matter is under investigation, officials say autopsy and other evidence in the shooting is not available to the public at this time.

In the wake of those reports and rumors, Fort Wayne NAACP officials say they are looking into the matter.

“The killing of TaVontae Jamar Haney, the 16th homicide of the city this year, is under investigation by the NAACP,” said Fort Wayne NAACP President Dr. Saharra Bledsoe in a statement.

Just days later, local police officers found themselves engaged in a gun battle on the north side of Fort Wayne, during which officers shot and killed 22-year-old Ryan Koontz after his mother called police that he was acting strange and potentially violent. According to reports, Koontz fired shots in the house, causing officers to retreat. He then fled the house, got into a vehicle and drove several driveways down the street where  he again fired at police officers and at neighboring houses before he was shot and killed.

Meanwhile, the NAACP has issued a set of guidelines designed to teach people how to exercise their constitutional rights but at the same time, minimize the potential for a violent and deadly conflict with the police. The statement outlining those guidelines reads:

Know Your Rights

What To Do If You Are Stopped by the Police

1. Stay Calm, Stay in Control

2. Do Not Run Away!

3. If questioned: YOU Have The Right To Remain Silent! Say, You Wish to Remain Silent.(In Some States you Must Identify yourself, if asked

4. If Searched, Say: “ I DO NOT GIVE CONSENT TO THIS SEARCH!”

5. Ask: “AM I FREE TO LEAVE”

6. If Arrested: Ask for a Parent/Guardian and an Attorney Immediately

7. You Do Not have to tell the police about your Immigration status.

8. Remember what happened. Write it Down. Tell your Parents or Guardian!

(Courtesy Fort Wayne NAACP)

 

This article originally appeared in our May 8, 2013 issue.

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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