Tonight, two separate stories popped onto my radar, and I asked myself if I really ought to write about them. They are both about extreme bigotry, examples of the illogical and purposeless hatred spreading across our nation today … more so in the south, but in the rest of the country as well. And I wonder if my readers tire of these stories. But after I re-read the stories, I decided that yes, I need to write about these stories, for to remain silent would be to add my own guilt to that of others. I have committed to using my voice to speak out against social injustice, and these both fit into that category. So …
This first one is a story that has become all too familiar in the past few years: white police officer shoots and kills young black man. Only this time, it was a boy … a fifteen-year-old boy. Jordan Edwards was his name. Last Saturday night, young Jordan was with his two brothers and two other teens, leaving a party at a house in a Dallas suburb. Apparently neighbors had called the police because of the noise of the party, which was just breaking up. As the teens were driving off in their car, Balch Springs Police Officer Roy Oliver opened fire on the vehicle, killing Jordan Edwards who was sitting in the front passenger seat.
Initially, the other officers stated that the driver of the vehicle had put the car into reverse and was ‘aggressively’ driving toward the police officers, but when body cams proved this to be untrue, they changed their stories. In a news conference Monday, Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said that he initially “misspoke” and that the vehicle had begun to drive away at the time the officer opened fire. The teens were already in their car when they saw flashlights and heard gunshots. They drove for about a block before they noticed that there was smoke coming from Jordan’s head. The driver of the car, Jordan’s older brother, stopped the car, and they flagged down an approaching police cruiser for help. But for young Jordan, it was too late.
Officer Oliver was initially placed on desk duty, but on Tuesday evening, Chief Haber told reporters, “After reviewing the findings I have made the decision to terminate Roy Oliver’s employment with the Balch Springs Police Department. My department will continue to be responsive, transparent and accountable.” Assuming that he stands by that pledge, this case may end differently than the notable cases such as Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and others.
Officer Oliver had a history of trouble during his six years with the department. In 2013, he was temporarily suspended after the District Attorney’s office filed a complaint about his angry outburst and vulgar language during a trial in which he was testifying. He was ordered to take training courses in anger management and courtroom demeanor and testimony. Earlier this year, Oliver was reprimanded for being “disrespectful to a civilian on a call.” Not major items, but indicative that perhaps he had issues that made police work a poor career choice for him.
Yesterday afternoon, a judge signed a murder warrant for Oliver, setting bail at $300,000. “The warrant was issued due to evidence that suggested Mr. Oliver intended to cause serious bodily injury and commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that caused the death of an individual,” Melinda Urbina, a public information officer with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement.
Time will tell whether justice will be served this time, as it has not yet been in similar cases. It is time … time to send a message to all police officers that we will not tolerate racism, that indeed, Black Lives DO Matter.
They met in 1965 and had lived together ever since. For a time, in their youth, they traveled around the country, indulging in their mutual interest in Civil War history, tried their hand at growing apples in Wisconsin, but eventually both went on to become special education teachers, dedicating their lives to kids with special needs. When they retired some twenty years ago, they decided to move south, to a warmer climate, and settled in Picayune, Mississippi. In all that time, they never married, until 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled that gay couples had as much right as anybody to marry. Their names are Jack Zawadski and Robert (Bob) Huskey. Mr. Zawadski is now 82, and sadly, Mr. Huskey died last May at age 86.
Mr. Huskey had suffered serious heart problems ever since by-pass surgery some years ago. “Jack cared for Bob through his surgery, recovery and as his condition deteriorated. By August, 2015, Jack was helping Bob with all the daily functions of life, including eating, walking and personal hygiene.” Mr. Huskey moved into a nursing home, and last April it became clear that he would soon die.
The couple’s nephew, John Gaspari, made the arrangements ahead of time with Picayune Funeral Home, the only funeral home in the county with an on-site crematory. Mr. Huskey died on May 11th, and the nursing home contacted the funeral home to let them know. But the funeral home owners refused to pick up the body, saying that once they received the paperwork and realized that his spouse was also a male, they would not pick him up because they don’t “deal with their kind.” After being together, loving each other, living a good life together for 52 years, then this.
Mr. Zawadski has filed a lawsuit and is represented by Lambda Legal, an LGBT rights law firm and advocacy organization based in New York. The owners of the funeral home, Ted and Henrietta Brewer, deny that they refused to pick up the body or that they made the comment, but their attorney offers no other explanation.
This story touched a raw nerve, as I have two very dear friends who are married, Bryan and Brian, as it were. Brian died last October of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and in his last months, Bryan did everything for him, just as Jack did for Bob. It was heartbreaking when he died, and this story reminded me so much of them that I could not write it without a few tears. R.I.P., Brian … and Bob.
After reading both of these stories last night, I have to ask myself, who are we, as a society? When did we stop being kind and tolerant of the differences in people, or were we ever kind and tolerant? When and why did we stop valuing people for their individuality? I thought we were better than this. I really want us to be better than this.