Protest organizers seek answers to TPD’s use of force on teen

Published 1:30 am Thursday, December 28, 2017

Organizers hope a protest on Saturday will lead to answers about the use of physical force in the arrest of a Troy teen last weekend.

Kenneth Sharpton Glasgow, a spokesman for the teen’s family, said 17-year-old Ulysses KeAndre Wilkerson has been recovering “slowly and painfully” since his arrest early Sunday morning.

“The family wants justice,” Glasgow said. “The family is very, very upset with the City of Troy and especially the police department.”

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Police say the incident began when Wilkerson emerged from behind a closed business downtown shortly before midnight on Saturday, Dec. 23. According to a statement from Police Chief Randall Barr, the teen fled on foot when approached by the officers.

Barr said when apprehended, Wilkerson “resisted arrest and refused to comply with commands from the officers to place his hands behind his back … due to the subject’s actions and failure to comply with officers’ commands, officers had to use physical force to affect the arrest. The force used was reasonable and necessary.”

The teen was taken to Troy Regional Medical Center and then to University of Alabama Birmingham. Photographs circulated on social showed the teen handcuffed to a hospital bed with a severely swollen and bruised face. He has since been released from the hospital and Glasgow said has been recovering.

Wilkerson was charged with obstruction of governmental operations and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors.

Glasgow said the family is supporting a peaceful protest outside the Troy Police Department Saturday at 11 a.m. in an effort to get answers.

Gerald Jackson, a Troy native who owns and operates the organization We Want Justice, is helping to organize the rally. He outlined what he said the family and community are seeking.

“We’re asking TPD why they stopped Mr. Wilkerson,” Jackson said. “We’re asking them to produce something. We want to know why the officer brutally beat him the way he did and we want them to release the bodycam footage. Give us transparency. We have the right as taxpayers and the public to know what this government official did to this private individual.”

Jackson echoed the family’s sentiment that the rally is meant to be peaceful.

“This is a peaceful protest that won’t be blocking any streets or highways or anything of any sort,” Jackson said. “Angela Williams (Wilkerson’s mother) and Ulysses Wilkerson (Wilkerson’s father) are people of peace and getting things done the right way and they have called for peace. It’s the people’s duty if you are going to advocate for this family, respect what they’re asking and they’re asking for this to be peaceful. We can’t control what people say on social media or what people do. I’m sure police will be there to make sure there is no violence. Those who are fighting for this family’s son, I’m sure they will listen to the mother.”

Jackson said he’s spoken with the Birmingham chapter of Black Lives Matter and has confirmed that the group will be coming to Troy for the rally. Glasgow also said civil rights activist Al Sharpton has been invited to attend the rally.

Pike County NAACP member Gwen Bean said she was worried at first that the situation would turn volatile but is now confident that residents will remain peaceful as they wait for answers.

“Initially I thought ‘Oh no, this is Missouri coming to Troy’ and that there was going to be a lot of chaos, but I’m so proud that our community has not become one of those areas,” Bean said. “We’ve been very calm and peaceful about this. Social media has lit a little fire, but I think community is going to come together and wait until the facts are known.”

Threats have been levied on social media against an officer allegedly involved in the incident, and Bean warned others to keep comments positive.

“The main thing that the people need to realize is that social media has its good points but it can also be something that causes people’s lives to be ruined,” Bean said. “Don’t let passion cause you to say things that could come back to haunt you. Let’s keep everything positive.”

Dana Wilson, founder of Humbled Hearts Inc., said she and Shabrell Reynolds of Flowing Brook Inc. organized a community forum last year to prevent this kind of incident from occurring and that this situation is proof of the need for communication between law enforcement and the community.

“There were several cases of police brutality at that time,” Wilson said, referring to the fatal shootings of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana in the summer of 2016. “I believe it should have compelled cities to come together and have a dialogue about police brutality and proper etiquette and what police should be doing and what citizens should be doing, but the true meaning of the forum got overshadowed by race relations. I think the way we saw it was as a preventative measure to keep Troy out of the news as it is now. Seeing this does compel me to reach out and find out dig a little deeper why again this forum wasn’t already a standard (for law enforcement). Now it definitely needs to be a standard and requirement.”

The Troy Police Department has handed over the investigation to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). Barr and Mayor Jason Reeves said they would not comment further on the situation until the investigation is completed.

SBI officer Heath Carpenter said in a release Tuesday night that SBI officials also will not release any further information until the investigation is complete.

“In order to protect the juvenile involved and the integrity of the investigation, no additional information will be released by SBI until this investigation is closed,” he said. “The completed investigation will be turned over to Pike County District Attorney Tom Anderson for presentation to a grand jury.”

He did not confirm whether footage from police body cameras captured the incident.

“We will be analyzing all available evidence through the course of this investigation, whether it be physical, digital or analog,” Carpenter said. “I cannot speak as to what types of evidence we have reviewed at this stage of the investigation.”