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Gym mat death: New evidence points to foul play, expert says
Oct-09-2013 719 0

For the local sheriff's department, the death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson is a closed book: A tragedy, but an accident.

State medical examiners concluded that Johnson suffocated in January after getting stuck in a rolled-up gym mat while reaching for a sneaker. That's a finding his family has never accepted, and one challenged by the findings of a second autopsy they commissioned.

Now, death scene imagery obtained by CNN has led a former FBI agent to question how the three-sport athlete died.

"I don't believe this was an accident. I think this young man met with foul play," said Harold Copus, now an Atlanta private investigator.

And Johnson's father, Kenneth Johnson, said he believes authorities aren't leveling with his family.

What happened to Kendrick Johnson?
"They know something happened in that gym, and they don't want it to come out," he said.

'Accidental' death challenged by new autopsy

A 15-minute video and nearly 700 photos taken by sheriff's investigators in Lowndes County documented the horrific scene. Johnson's body, clad in jeans and and layered orange and white T-shirts, was found wedged into a rolled-up wrestling mat in January. His face was bloated with pooled blood, some of which had poured out of his body, soaking his dreadlocks and spilling onto the floor.

There were more streaks of blood on a nearby wall -- but it wasn't Johnson's, according to investigators. Meanwhile, Copus said there appeared to be no blood on a sneaker that the teen supposedly was attempting to reach, located inches beneath him.

A pair of orange-and-black gym shoes found a few yards from the body had a substance that looked like blood on them, but investigators told CNN the stains weren't blood -- and so the shoes weren't collected as potential evidence. The same went for a hooded sweatshirt found a few feet away from the teen.

Copus said he can't explain how investigators handled items found around the gym.

"If you're running a crime scene, then you're going to say 'That's potential evidence. Obviously, we're going to check this out and find out who does it belong to,' " he said.

Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine refused to discuss the case with CNN, saying, "Our case is closed." But in June, an independent pathologist who conducted a second autopsy for the Johnson family found the teen suffered a blow to the right side of his neck that was "consistent with inflicted injury."

In May, sheriff's Lt. Stryde Jones told CNN that investigators tested the bloodstains on the nearby wall, "and it was not the blood of Kendrick Johnson." Investigators haven't determined whose blood it was, "but it doesn't appear to be involved in our crime in any way," he said.

"In the opinion of our crime scene personnel, after looking at it closely, the blood appeared as if it'd been there for an extended period of time. It didn't appear to be very fresh," Jones said.

But Copus said it's difficult to believe that old bloodstains weren't cleaned up.

"There is no way that they would allow whoever was supposed to clean this gym to leave that blood on that wall," he said.

In September, the Justice Department said it wouldn't open a civil rights investigation into Johnson's death. But federal prosecutors in south Georgia are reviewing the imagery to determine whether a separate investigation is necessary, the U.S. attorney's office in Macon told CNN.

For Johnson's father, the evidence is clear.

"Someone murdered him," he said. "They should be in jail."

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Megan Cerullo Sep-25-2016 77 0
The University of North Dakota is investigating a photo that shows four white students in black facial masks that was apparently posted on Snapchat with the caption “Black lives matter.”

The photograph is the second racially-charged image associated with the university to be released in less than two days. An earlier picture of three white students, one of whom flashes a peace sign, reading “Locked the black b---h out,” was previously shared on the same messaging platform.

University of North Dakota’s president Mark Kennedy, whose term began in July, addressed both episodes in a statement.

“I am appalled that within 48 hours two photos with racially-charged messages have been posted on social media and associated with the UND campus community,” he said in the statement. “It is abundantly clear that we have much work to do at the University of North Dakota in educating our students, and the entire University community on issues related to diversity, inclusion, and respect for others.”

The UND Police Department and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities are conducting investigations into both incidents. Kennedy wrote that the school is also researching best practices for diversity education.

University of North Dakota enrolls 14,951 students, 2.5% of which are black. The bulk of the student body — more than 78% — is white.

“I have been disappointed to learn that we have people in our university community who don’t know that the kind of behavior and messaging demonstrated in these two photos is not ok, and that, in fact, it is inexcusable,” he said.

He also wrote that he sees this as an opportune moment to “provide an education to all members of our campus community” and to “use the situation as an opportunity to address what some see as long standing issues within our community and across the country.”
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Laura Bult Sep-25-2016 67 0
Carolina released body and dashboard camera footage of the controversial shooting of a black man Saturday after a week of sometimes riotous demonstrations and calls by the public and politicians to see the video.

The dramatic footage of the Charlotte shooting of Keith Scott shed little light on what led to his fatal confrontation with cops — or whether or not he was holding a gun at the time.

Police maintained that Scott was “an imminent deadly threat” to officers, although the video released never shows him raising his arms in a threatening way toward the cops. It’s also unclear what is in his hand.

On the dash-cam video, Scott exits his SUV and takes a few steps backward.

Two officers can be seen pointing their guns at Scott.

He appears to be holding something in his left hand.

Seconds later, four shots ring out and the 43-year-old crumples to the ground.

Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney said he decided to release the footage after receiving assurances from the State Bureau of Investigation that it would not impact their independent probe of the shooting.

“The footage itself will not create in anyone’s mind absolute certainty as to what this case represents and what the outcome should be,” Putney said. “The footage only supports all of the other information” such as physical evidence and statements from witnesses and officers, he added.

The video from the body camera, worn by a uniformed Charlotte police officer, only shows Scott for a moment, with his right arm by his side.

The cops shout “handcuffs” as they converge on the wounded man. Scott can be heard moaning in pain as the cop wearing the bodycam leans over his body.

There is no audio for the first 25 seconds of the video and none of the shots can be heard.

“Mr. Scott does not appear to be acting aggressive,” Scott family attorney Justin Bamberg said of the video. “He doesn’t lunge at the officers. It appears he has his hands by his side. The moment he is shot, he is passively stepping back.”

Police released three photographs along with the videos.

One shows a handgun, one appears to be a smoked marijuana joint, and another shows an ankle holster. Police said a lab analysis showed Scott’s DNA and fingerprints were on the gun. Bamberg said it was the first time he had been shown any evidence of Scott having a gun.

“I have been assured by the State Bureau of Investigation that the release will have no material impact on the independent investigation since most of the known witnesses have been interviewed,” he said in a release.

Putney said he would only release footage that is “relevant” to the case.

The videos, filmed by the dash-cam and the body cam of an officer at the scene of the shooting, show the moments that led to Scott’s death at the hands of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Officer Brentley Vinson.

The footage was made public following four nights of protests in Charlotte as demonstrators took to the streets and demanded the recordings be released. On Saturday, demonstrators took their protest to the police department chanting “No tapes, no peace.”

National figures on both ends of the political spectrum joined the chorus of those demanding the footage to be released, including Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani.

Scott’s family viewed the police videos in private Thursday but said the tapes left them with more “questions than answers” regarding whether the shooting was justified.

Ray Dotch, who identified himself as Scott’s brother-in-law, said Scott was a good man and a good father.

“What we know and what you should know about him is that he was an American citizen who deserved better,” he added.

Putney contended Saturday that there is “no single piece of evidence that proves the complexities” of the case as he offered new details on the fatal run-in.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg officers encountered Scott Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot of the Village at College Downs apartment complex.
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Laura Bult Sep-23-2016 173 0
The wife of Keith Lamont Scott filmed the encounter with Charlotte, N.C. police that led to the 43-year-old black man’s death in broad daylight.

The cellphone video, released on Friday to NBC News, shows the tense moments leading up to and after the fatal police shooting. The events surrounding the deadly encounter are audible in the video but do not show the shooting itself.

His wife, Rakeyia Scott, can be heard on the video pleading with officers not to shoot her husband and insiting that "he has no weapon."

"Don't shoot!" the distraught woman can be heard yelling towards officers.

Police repeatedly yell "Drop the gun!" before the pops of four gunshots ring out, killing Scott.
Rayeyia Scott reacts to the sound of gunshots in horror, screaming "Did you shoot him?" and later: "He better be alive!"

Attorneys for the Scott family released the video to both NBC and the New York Times as Charlotte police continue to withhold dashcam footage that shows the fatal shooting.

The cellphone video does not have a direct view of the shooting and does not reveal whether or not Scott was armed, which is a significant point of contention in the police account of events.

Police have insisted that Scott was armed and wouldn’t drop his weapon before he was killed.

Family and witnesses dispute this account, saying that Scott is disabled with a brain injury and was reading a book while waiting for his son to get off the bus.Rakeyia Scott is heard telling officers that her husband has "T.B.I.," or a traumatic brain injury and that he had just taken medication.

"He's not going to do anything to you guys," she says to the officers just seconds before the shooting.

This is a developing story. Check back in for updates.

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Rebecca Lopez Sep-23-2016 144 0
Rioting, looting, and injured officers

Scenes like that caused Dallas Police Sgt. Demetrick Pennie to file a lawsuit against the Black Lives Matters Organization, he says.

"When you hold Black Lives Matters accountable, you hold them accountable for their rhetoric," Pennie said. "They are inciting violence against law enforcement."

Last night, there was rioting in North Carolina after a black man was shot and killed by an officer.

"We just had a shooting and in this shooting, a Black police officer kills a Black male," Pennie said. "Rather than wait for evidence, we have people hitting the streets. Why?"

Sgt. Pennie says the Black Lives Matter movement is well-organized and creates chaos.

“Disrupting businesses, disrupting enterprises, looting, rioting -- that's not going to get [protesters what they want]," he said. "In fact, that is going to cause people to fear you."

Thomas Glover is the president of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, and he vehemently disagrees with Pennie.

“We profoundly -- let me repeat -- we profoundly disagree with Sgt. Pennie," Glover said. "Black Lives Matter is a social-justice group, just like any other group out there protesting for rights. There are nuts that show up to their protests and demonstrations."

Glover went on to say the people who pose the greatest threat to law enforcement are white racists groups. The latest statistics by the FBI show the majority of officers killed are killed by white men.

"Some of the most-deadliest encounters that law enforcement officers have had has been behind white militia groups, white supremacist groups, white sovereign citizens groups carrying out threats to law enforcement," Glover said.

He says those are the groups that should be sued. He says the Black community has the right to fear law enforcement. The majority of unarmed suspects killed in the U.S. are Black men.

"All you see is every day you wake up and wonder who will be next," Glover said.

Sgt. Pennie says protests do more harm. He points to the fact five officers were killed in Dallas during a protest on July 7.

“We lost officers' lives behind nonsense," he said.

Sgt. Pennie says money needs to be spent on improving Black neighborhoods rather than on Black Lives Matters to bring about change.

The Black Police Association says that's already happening, and calls Pennie's lawsuit ludicrous.

In a release Wednesday night, the organization said "lawsuits [...] are not bridges across the gap, the gap widens," without making specific reference to Pennie's lawsuit.

"Disrespect and verbal assaults hurled at social justice organizations like Black Lives Matter are not the answer," the letter reads.

Pennie is suing for $500 million.
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Tonya Maxwell Sep-23-2016 105 0
After a second night of violent protests over a police-involved shooting, police chief Kerr Putney allowed the victim's family to view video of the incident but said he would not release footage to the public.

Putney told reporters the video "does not give me absolute definitive visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun" but that the evidence "taken in totality" supports the police version of events that led to the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. The family viewed the video Thursday afternoon but had not yet made a statement about their reaction to it.

Police, who were serving a warrant at a nearby apartment complex at the time, said Scott was armed and refused direct orders from officers to drop the weapon.

Several local residents said the 43-year-old father of seven regularly waited in his car and read until his son arrived back from school. They claimed he was carrying a book, not a gun, when he stepped from the car after police approached.

“He got out of his car, he walked back to comply, and all his compliance did was get him murdered,” said Taheshia Williams, whose balcony overlooks the shady parking spot where Scott was Tuesday afternoon, the Associated Press reported.

Putney said two officers and nine civilians were injured and 44 people arrested late Wednesday in several hours of violence that broke out following peaceful protests. One person was shot, apparently by another civilian.

With police in riot gear patrolling downtown streets, protesters shouted "hands up, don't shoot," banged against a police van and broke a window of the City Smoke barbecue restaurant and bar. Police set off smoke bombs, which are sometimes used to disperse crowds.

"The events we saw last night are not the Charlotte I know and love, or the deep-seated tradition we have of collaboration," Mayor Jennifer Roberts said at the news conference.

Authorities said they would not impose a curfew, but reserved the right to do so. Putney said the arrival of hundreds National Guard troops and highway patrol officers to protect buildings would allow police to go after violent protesters.

Putney has promised a transparent investigation of the original shooting incident, and agreed to let Scott's family see the video, but stood by his refusal to release the footage to the public.

The police chief said a public release of the video would have a “negative impact on the integrity of the case.”

"Right now, my priority ... is the people who are the victims of the shooting," Putney said. "I am going to honor that request. If you think we should display a victim's worst day for public consumption, that is not the transparency I'm speaking of."

Earlier, Scott's wife, Rakeiya, issued a statement saying the family had "more questions than answers" about his death.

"Rest assured, we will work diligently to get answers to our questions as quickly as possible," the statement said.

The family also called on protesters to be peaceful. "Please do not hurt people or members of law enforcement, damage property or take things that do not belong to you in the name of protesting," the statement read.

Police said the plainclothes officer, identified as Brently Vinson, who shot Scott has been placed on leave, which is standard procedure in such cases. The incident is being investigated by a separate state agency.

Three uniformed officers at the shooting scene had body cameras, but Vinson did not, police said.

A new law, signed by McCrory in July, takes effect Oct. 1 and denies public access to police body cam and dashcam footage without a judge’s orders.

Under the law, police departments can decide whether to make such video public. A person depicted in a video can request release of the footage, but if the request is denied, the person must challenge the decision in court.

It is unclear whether the new law would apply to the ongoing case if the investigation continues into October.

In Washington, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, a North Carolina native, said the Justice Department was dispatching four Community Relations Service members to Charlotte to assist with bringing peace to the city.

Lynch called on protesters to “stop’’ the violence that has marred demonstrations in the past two days. “Violence only begets violence,’’ she said.

“I know that the events of recent days are painfully unclear and call out for answers,’’ Lynch said. “But I also know that the answer will not be found in the violence of recent days … I know that most of the demonstrators gathered to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful protest in order to raise issues and create change. We need your voice. We need your passion. We need your commitment. But I urge those responsible for the violence to stop.’’

Robin Tanner, chair of the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice, was among 40 local faith leaders who were on the street during Wednesday's protests and were caught in a crossfire of tear gas as police in riot gear tried to rein in violent demonstrations.

Tanner, choking with emotion at a news conference called Thursday by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, said the city had become "militarized."

She said Charlotte was where she began work as a Unitarian minister, where she was married and had children. "Now this is the city that tear gassed me."

She called on city leaders not to impose a curfew, which she said would only increase tension.

"We are begging as faith leaders serving this city for action that would de-escalate," Tanner said.
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CBS NEWS Sep-23-2016 85 0
The Tulsa police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man while responding to a stalled car has turned herself in to face a first-degree manslaughter charge, reports the CBS affiliate here, KOTV.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler announced the charge Thursday. Officer Betty Shelby surrendered early Friday morning, was booked into the Tulsa County Jail and immediately released on $50,000 bond, the station says.

Police in Tulsa released dashcam and aerial footage, 911 calls and police radio traffic following Terence Crutcher’s shooting death on Sept. 16, showing Crutcher walking away from Shelby, who is white, with his arms in the air.

Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, said Thursday her family is grateful to Kunzweiler’s office for bringing the charge. She said her mother broke down when she learned of the charging decision.

However, Tiffany Crutcher said her family is “preparing to go to war” and will push for a conviction.

“While we are pleased to learn the officer who senselessly killed by beloved twin brother will face criminal charges for her reckless act, we understand nothing will bring him back,” Crutcher said. “Nothing will bring back our father, our son, our brother, our nephew, our cousin.”

She said the family is focusing on celebrating Terence Crutcher’s life and will push for increased transparency and accountability from law enforcement.

The footage does not offer a clear view of when Shelby fired the single shot that killed Crutcher. Her attorney has said Crutcher was not following police commands and that Shelby opened fire when the man began to reach into his SUV window.

But Crutcher’s family immediately discounted that claim, saying the father of four posed no threat to the officers, and police said Crutcher did not have gun on him or in his vehicle. Family attorneys have said the vehicle’s window was rolled up, and he wasn’t reaching inside.

Though Crutcher was wearing baggy clothes, Shelby didn’t see any weapons or bulges indicating he might have a weapon, the investigator wrote.According to an affidavit filed by the chief investigator for the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office, Shelby “reacted unreasonably by escalating the situation from a confrontation with Mr. Crutcher.” Though the investigator said Crutcher wasn’t responding to verbal commands, he said Shelby ”became emotionally involved to the point that she over reacted.”

Shelby, who joined the Tulsa Police Department in December 2011, was en route to a domestic violence call when she encountered Crutcher’s vehicle abandoned on a city street,straddling the center line. Shelby did not activate her patrol car’s dashboard camera, so no footage exists of what first happened between the two before other officers arrived.

The affidavit says Shelby initially approached the vehicle and cleared the driver’s side front before moving around to the passenger side. That’s when she encountered Crutcher, who was walking toward her, and asked him if the car belonged to him and if it was disabled. Crutcher was mumbling to himself and wouldn’t answer Shelby’s questions, the document says.

Crutcher kept putting his hands in his pockets, and Shelby ordered him to show his hands, police say in the affidavit. Crutcher then began walking away towards the vehicle with his hands in the air, not responding to Shelby’s orders to stop, the document says.

At that point, Shelby pulled out her service weapon and followed Crutcher to the vehicle. She pointed it at him, and another officer arrived and told Shelby he had his Taser ready, according to the affidavit.

That’s when, police say, Crutcher reached into the driver’s side front window, and the officer fired his Taser and Shelby fired her weapon, striking Crutcher.

The police footage shows Crutcher approaching the driver’s side of the SUV, then more officers walk up and Crutcher appears to lower his hands and place them on the vehicle. A man inside a police helicopter overhead says: “That looks like a bad dude, too.Probably on something.”
The officers surround Crutcher and he suddenly drops to the ground. A voice heard on police radio says: “Shots fired!” The officers back away and Crutcher is left unattended on the street for about two minutes before an officer puts on medical gloves and begins to attend to him.

Shelby later told police she was in fear for her life and thought Crutcher was going to kill her, the document says.

Among the definitions in Oklahoma for first-degree manslaughter is a killing “perpetrated unnecessarily either while resisting an attempt by the person killed to commit a crime, or after such attempt shall have failed.”If convicted, Shelby could face a minimum of four years in prison.

“The tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Terence Crutcher is on the hearts and mind of many people in this community,” Kunzweiler said. “It’s important to note that despite heightened tensions which seemingly beg for an emotional response and reaction, our community has demonstrated a willingness to respect the judicial process.”

In a statement, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin said she hopes the decision brings peace to Crutcher’s family, but urged the community to be patient as the case works its way through the justice system and remember that Shelby is innocent until proven guilty.

“No matter how you feel about the prosecutors’decision in this case, I hope Oklahomans will respect the views of your friends and neighbors because we still have to live peacefully together as we try to make sense of the circumstances that led to Mr. Crutcher’s death,” Fallin said.

Fallin complimented Tulsa’s police chief, mayor, district attorney and citizens for helping to keep peace and order “during this difficult time.”

Earlier this year, a former volunteer deputy with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office was sentenced to four years in prison after he was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Eric Harris.

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Jeff Smith Sep-23-2016 78 0
In a strongly worded letter, the head of Dallas' Black Police Association said police brutality against unarmed men has become an "epidemic."

The lieutenant who wrote those words has been a Dallas police officer for more than 30 years, and says it's time to speak out on what he calls a growing and dangerous problem.

Lt. Thomas Glover told NBC 5 he used the word "epidemic" to draw attention to his message, which is that regardless of your ethnicity, every American should agree there's a problem with police brutality and that we must work together for real solutions.

The police association is scheduled to hold a press conference to "offer our prayers, condolences, and deepest sympathy to the family of Mr. Terrence Cruter of Tulsa, Oklahoma" Friday morning.

"Actually coming out and boldly and profoundly saying it's an issue and it's even an epidemic – I know there will be people who dislike that – but we have to say it and we have to get the truth out there first, before we can get solutions," Glover said Thursday.

In the letter, the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas wrote, in part:

"There is an epidemic of unarmed black men being shot by police officers. It is so pervasive, if not checked it will soon rise to levels exceeded only by lynchings, and slavery...It is time to jog our consciousness and stop this epidemic from spreading; we cannot continue to have innocent lives lost."

"As black police officers, we are expected to perform our duty at times when one would believe that we are forced to chooses between two sides. One side tells us remaining silent on this issue is necessary to survive in this profession, the other tells us to speak up loudly if we are to survive in our ethnic community. As black officers we will choose the side of right and use all of our energy, time, expertise, and funds to render this epidemic officially over."

In defending his letter, Glover told NBC 5 that, "I used the word epidemic in the press release because one person, just one person needlessly dying who was unarmed and not participating in criminal behavior, not threatening the life of another citizen or a police officer, that’s one too many."

"And I can go on and on talking about the cases just this year, just this year, where a police officer shot and injured or shot and killed an unarmed black man," he added.

Glover said the shootings should be troubling to everyone, regardless of their race.

"It's troubling because it's out of the norm," he said. "It appears to be inhuman at times. It is inhuman when someone loses their life when they're not trying to harm anybody."

Glover is calling on his own police department to make serious reforms.

"In order to build trust we have to be transparent and also allow some kind of mechanism so that citizens truly believe they have a voice," he said.

Glover said the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas supports giving subpoena power to a civilian oversight board, so that citizens can question officers involved in deadly shootings, and he supports greater transparency with releasing police video footage.

"We have to allow access to video cameras and body cameras. And when you take a long time to release it ... what people think is that you're trying to cover something up or make an excuse, a rationale," he said.

In calling for greater transparency with releasing police videos following an officer-involved shooting, Glover is in-step with Next Generation Action Network leader Kim Cole, who organized a protest in downtown Dallas Thursday night.

"Be transparent. That is our interest with regard to police reform. We want transparency and accountability," Cole said.

"Aug. 28th, almost a month ago, there was an officer-involved shooting, and police issued no details," she said, referring to a deadly shooting on West Davis Street in Oak Cliff. "The Dallas Police Department hasn't revealed any dash-cam footage, they haven't revealed any body-cam footage. I don't even know the name of the victim. Is that transparency?"

Glover acknowledged the letter will strike many officers as inappropriate and needlessly controversial.

"The most important thing I can say is that we represent the African American community, and we represent the police department. It's a dual role, yes, but there is no struggle when you stand up for what's right. And standing up for reforms is right," Glover said.

There are about 600 officers in the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas. It is predominately black, but there are Latino, white and Asian officers as well.

The BPA is holding a press conference Friday morning at 11 a.m. along with the Dallas NAACP, several prominent church pastors, and other community leaders, to discuss these issues.

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Sep-22-2016 360 0
The officer who fatally shot an Oklahoma man with his hands up faces manslaughter charges in his killing.

Prosecutors in Tulsa County announced Thursday that Betty Shelby would be charged with a first degree count for shooting unarmed Terence Crutcher in the chest as he stood unarmed next to his car.

Crutcher’s death and graphic video of his slaying released by the police led to protests in Tulsa and other cities across the country.

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Noel Gutierrez-Morfin Sep-22-2016 273 0
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled against a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Catastrophe Management Solutions, effectively ruling that refusing to hire someone because of their dreadlocks is legal.

The lawsuit was filed by the EEOC on behalf of Chastity Jones, whose job offer was rescinded by Catastrophe Management Solutions, located in Mobile, Alabama. According to the case file, Jeannie Wilson, a human resources manager for CMS, commented on Jones' dreadlocks during a private hiring meeting to discuss scheduling conflicts, telling Jones, "they tend to get messy, although I'm not saying yours are, but you know what I'm talking about." Wilson told Jones that CMS would not bring Jones on board with dreadlocks, terminating the job offer.

In their suit, the EEOC claimed that this was a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964's Title VII, arguing that dreadlocks are a "racial characteristic" that have been historically used to stereotype African-Americans as "not team players" and as unfit for the workplace. Therefore, claiming that dreadlocks do not fit a grooming policy is based on these stereotypes and inherently discriminatory, as dreadlocks are a hairstyle "physiologically and culturally associated" with African-Americans.

The court of appeals disagreed, ruling that CMS's "race-neutral grooming policy" was not discriminatory as hairstyles, while "culturally associated with race," are not "immutable physical characteristics." In essence, traits in a person's appearance that are tied to their culture but are otherwise changeable are not protected and can be used to deny job offers.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has been routinely interpreted by the courts to only protect against "immutable characteristics" and not cultural practices. In Garcia v. Gloor, the courts ruled against the plaintiff, arguing that being fired for speaking Spanish at work despite their employers English-only policy did not violate Title VII.

Restrictions against dreadlocks have also been implemented in schools. This past July, Attica Scott, whose daughter is a student at Butler Traditional High School in Louisville, Kentucky, tweeted the dress code distributed by the school, which specifically prohibited "dreadlocks, cornrows, and twists."
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