BY MIKE ITALIE AND SALM KOLIS
ATHENS, Georgia - "What drives me is prosecuting the cops who were responsible for murdering my brother," said 22-year- old Kisha Wright. "Attorneys focusing on money can't do anything for me. Prosecution and jail is what I want to see so I can get up and face the day," she said here January 6 speaking to a group of students from the University of Georgia Kisha is the older sister of Edward Wright, a Black worker who was murdered by police officer Sean Potter early in the morning of Oct. 12, 1995, the same day Jonny Gammage was killed by cops in Pittsburgh.
"This is a community thing," she went on to explain. "I have to continue to protest not just for Edward. They have already taken him from me. I don't want them to take anyone else. I have other brothers, relatives, friends and neighbors. Who will be next if we don't stop this?"
Twenty-year-old Edward Wright was a cabinetmaker at Lectro Products. Wright left his mother's house around 7:00 a.m., without any clothes on and began running through the neighborhood. Unable to catch up with her son, his mother called the cops. She explained that he was not dangerous, but wasn't in his right mind and asked for their help in locating him.
In their report, cops Sean Potter and Pat Mercardante describe Wright as being violent, out of control, and probably on drugs. They claim that they were unable to subdue him with either blows from their police batons or pepper mace gas to the face. They state that he kept coming towards them, beating his fists on his chest. Only then, the cops assert, did they shoot Wright four times. He died on the way to the hospital. Cops claim Wright was laughing as he was being loaded into the ambulance.
Witnesses describe shooting
Witnesses in the neighborhood, however, present a different picture from the official police report. After being shot in the stomach, Wright put his hand over the wound, acknowledging that he had been shot. This first shot severed his aorta, which was enough to kill him. Potter shot Wright three more times, including once in the groin. As Wright lay on the ground bleeding from his wounds, one of the cops walked over to him and kicked him over on his back.
Witnesses describe shooting
Joseph Willis related what he saw happen right after the shooting, "They didn't even cover him with a blanket. They called another police car, not an ambulance."
Although the cops claim Wright was on drugs, two separate tests found no trace of any drugs in his system. Even if this were not the case, supporters point out that it is unacceptable for cops to execute on the spot people they suspect of drug use.
Outraged that a mother's call for help resulted in her son's death, residents here have held several protests.
Posters with the names of other victims of police violence hung behind the podium at a December 16 rally demanding justice be served in the murder of Edward Wright.
Speaking at this rally, Wright's grandfather, Rev. Willie Murky, told the protesters, "This is not going to go away. When they assassinated my grandson, they assassinated a whole family. My grandson is just as dead as if a Black, Puerto Rican, or Japanese policeman had shot him. I'm not going to focus on the fact that the officer was white. I don't want revenge, I am soliciting justice."
Months after the murder, protests continue and the cops continue their cover-up. "The police are doing the least amount they can," Kisha Wright said. "They are not cooperating with the family, and not paying attention to the witnesses."
Initially, Potter was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, but both cops are back on the streets of Athens.
District Attorney Harry Gordon issued a 14-page report on January 29 recommending no criminal charges be brought against the cops. The report justifies the murder by saying, "In the circumstances in which he found himself, Officer Potter was legally authorized to use deadly force against Edward Wright."
It also states, "a latitude of judgment is permitted to the police under these circumstances, and questionable or even bad judgment can be rarely subject to criminal penalties."
The next day protesters met District Attorney Gordon outside his office to express their outrage at his report and their determination to continue the fight.
Linking up with other fighters
Supporters have produced a fact sheet and are planning to distribute it at upcoming Black History Month activities. They also hope to link up with others fighting against police brutality, particularly with the recently formed "Justice for Jerry Jackson Coalition" in Atlanta.
Linking up with other fighters
Jerry Jackson, a 23-year-old Black construction worker, was killed by Atlanta cop Waine Pickney in early December. This case has generated much publicity because Brenda Jackson, Jerry's mother, continues to challenge cop lies, inaction, and the cover-up of her son's murder, including at a December 28 press conference held by Police Chief Beverly Horvard.
After Christmas, as publicity about the shooting was dying down, front-page headlines in the Atlanta papers announced three witnesses who came forward to say they saw Jackson being shot on they sidewalk, execution style, with his arm upraised, apparently begging for his life.
Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell attempted to give the appearance of getting out the facts by announcing the convening of a Citizen Review Board January 5. The board can't begin its investigation until the police department's internal investigation is completed, and has no subpoena power or staff. As of the end of January, the board had yet to meet.
On January 7, the mayor asked the district attorney to convene a grand jury. The grand jury, set to begin on February 7, will consider charges of murder, felony murder, and eight counts of aggravated assault against Atlanta cops Willie Sauls and Waine Pinckney.
A January 24 press conference announced the formation of the Justice for Jerry Jackson Coalition, whose purpose is to obtain a criminal conviction of the cop that killed Jackson. Coalition leader Lorenzo Komboa Ervin will be the keynote speaker at a February 10 conference in Pittsburgh to demand justice in the murder of Jonny Gammage.
Salm Kolis is a member of United Auto Workers Local 882. Mike Italie is a member of Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees Local 2490.
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