Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Outrageous: The DOJ rules no Civil Rights violations in the case of Rowana Riggs











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It was a little over a year ago when Rowana Riggs was stopped by Officer Christian E. Cory (Badge #1927) for driving with a defective tail light. She was heading home from Jackson's Mortuary where she was making preparations for her mother's burial.
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The Officer pulled behind Ms. Riggs and followed her for several blocks, turning on his lights and sirens only as Ms. Riggs was approaching her Father's house. She continued the short distance to the driveway where she pulled in to a stop. Officer Cory pulled her car door open with such force that it damaged the hinges, now preventing the door from closing properly. He then grabbed Ms. Riggs and threw her to the ground.
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While the Police Department certainly disputes what happened next; them alleging that they were at all times professional and that Ms. Riggs was hardly injured, what is not in dispute is the condition of Ms. Riggs after having been stopped for this defective tail light. Two medical examinations of Ms. Riggs have been done. *The first was by Dr. Daniel F. Housholder, MD and Dr. Charles O'Donnell, DO on April 11, 2007 at Wesley Hospital. They diagnosed "facial contusions". She was given Motrin and Neurontin for pain. Her right orbit and right zygomatic arch over her right eye showed soft tissue swelling but no fractures. *The second medical exam was done by Kyle Johnson, PA on April 28th, 2007 at the Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa, OK. Ms. Riggs was diagnosed again with a contusion of the face. She was prescribed Darvocet and Naprosyn to relieve the severe pain in her head, back and neck which she was still feeling 19 days after the incident. Not only was Ms. Riggs beaten to the point she had long term difficulty seeing out of her right eye and has a loose tooth, but she was kicked so hard in her stomach that she lost her bowels and urine.
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When we were contacted by Ms. Riggs about her situation, we determined that we would work this case through the system to help her achieve some measure of Justice. We assisted Ms. Riggs in filing her complaint with the Wichita Police Department. We held meetings with Chief Norman Williams, Deputy Chief Robert Lee, and Professional Standards Detective Max Tenbrook. We consulted with the DOJ and with their advice and counsel also filed a formal complaint with the US Attorney's office, the FBI, and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in Washington DC.
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We were not surprised to learn that the Wichita PD had exonerated themselves; that has been their practice in all cases... But last Tuesday, after a year of waiting, I received a letter from the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice stating that after "reviewing" the facts, they had concluded that no Civil Rights violations had taken place.
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Now I have written on this blog about the ideological 'shift' within the Federal Government with regard to the enforcement of Civil Rights laws. And I have talked about the appointments of political ideologues who have long established personal and professional antipathies towards Civil Rights protections. But all that aside; this is still a Federal Agency charged with protecting the basic rights of citizenship for all Americans. When a 49-year old Cancer patient can be beaten up in her family's driveway because of a faulty brake light and the Department of JUSTICE finds no fault, then the whole damn system is broken.
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We will not let this case pass into memory. We will continue to fight Ms. Riggs case until someone is held responsible for what they've done. We're calling for a reinvestigation of the case. We will work that locally through the US Attorney's office, the Police Department and our Regional NAACP office. But we won't stop there. I will CONTINUE to appeal this case to the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. I understand and I have been told by many veteran activists that the DOJ would not be moved by such appeals. But whether they are or are not, I will continue... I want to hand them the pictures we took of Ms. Riggs and have them tell me face-to-face that this was ok. I want to see the faces of the people who excused this. And I want to tell them Personally that this fight is not about persons but principles. I want to tell them that this case is bigger than Rowana Riggs; this is about all of our fundamental rights to live our lives without the threat of violence, assault, or attack. I want them to hear from me that this is not ok... this is not justice... and this will not stand...


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BAMBOO BLITZ June 18, 2008 at 2:03 AM  

Thank you for posting this and advocating for Rowana Riggs! I am appalled that the blatant mistreatment of Ms. Riggs by state law enforcement did not "warrant" a civil rights injustice! Honestly, what other kind of violation could this possibly be?!

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