TROY, New York — Carrying signs and chanting “Justice for Edson” and “Prosecute killer cops,” some 60 people demonstrated Aug. 22 outside a council meeting to protest the city’s cover-up of the cop killing of Edson Thevenin in 2016.
City officials refused to act on an internal affairs investigation that found officer Randall French carried out an “unjustifiable act of deadly force” and then lied to investigators after he killed Thevenin at a traffic stop.
“We can’t let the city of Troy get away with it,” Pastor Tre Stanton, speaking for Thevenin’s family, told protesters. “We are letting the community know we won’t stop until we get justice.” Gertha Depas, Thevenin’s mother, and James Thevenin, his brother, attended the action.
“This could happen to anyone,” retired carpenter Paul Banks told the Militant. Banks had joined the action when he heard protesters, saying, “My son has been arrested by cops four times this summer for jaywalking and riding his bike on the sidewalk,” he pointed out.
Troy police officials claim that French was pinned between Thevenin’s revving car and his police cruiser when he killed Thevenin.
Four days after the killing Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove presented the case to a grand jury, which exonerated French and gave him immunity from prosecution. Two civilian witnesses to the shooting were not called to testify.
Since then, the state Supreme Court in June 2018 dismissed charges against Abelove, including that he lied to the grand jury that acquitted French.
An attorney general’s report issued in January last year disputed French’s account of the killing, noting that Troy cops failed to interview witnesses and that the cops’ claim that French was pinned between the two vehicles was “inaccurate.”
Instead of acting on the internal investigation that French had lied, Mayor Patrick Madden hired a law enforcement expert to refute the investigation’s findings in a second yet-to-be-released report.
Thevenin’s family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city.
French “should be in jail,” Betty Rockenshire, a retired machinist who lives close to where the Aug. 22 protest took place, told the Militant. Cops “think they can do whatever they want,” she noted.
James Cooper, who helped organize the protests, has demanded that all those involved in the police department and local government be held accountable for Thevenin’s death, as well as the shooting of his nephew, Dahmeek McDonald, who a cop wounded in August last year. In both instances cops claim that a car was being used to run them over to justify the shooting of two Black men.
Several people at the action called for creation of a civilian review board that “has teeth” to oversee the city police department. Ved Dookhun, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Troy, attended the protest and demanded that French be prosecuted. “A civilian review board created by the same powers that covered up this killing will not advance the fight. We need more protests like this that draw in other working people who are outraged by the cops’ actions,” Dookhun told the Militant. “Protest actions have won some firings, prosecutions and even jail time for cops who act as judge, jury and executioner in recent years. These are victories we can build on.”