A Tale of Two Unarmed Black Men Shot in Kentucky


This week, a Kentucky grand jury declined to indict a police officer in the shooting of an unarmed black man; elsewhere in Kentucky an officer is fired for the same charge; and an Australian government pamphlet "tells the truth" about marijuana and schizophrenia.

April 15- The Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader reports: Although it expressed sympathy to the victim's family, a Letcher County grand jury yesterday declined to indict a Kentucky State Police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man during a January drug deal in Jenkins.

James E. Alexander, 62, of Roanoke, Va., was shot twice with an automatic rifle Jan. 14 by state police Sgt. Bobby Day during a drug investigation using undercover officers at a Jenkins house. There were reports afterward that Alexander was shot when he reached under his jacket for a cell phone, said Sgt. Phil Crumpton, a state police spokesman in Frankfort.

"You're looking at a high-stress situation when someone is given a specific order and he makes an aggressive move that we feel is a threat to us," Crumpton said. "That's what these things narrow down to."

Alexander's family members and friends appeared upset yesterday.

"If they didn't find any drugs on him or guns on him, how can they do that?" asked Alexander's uncle, James L. Alexander, 78, of Lebanon, Va.

The Virginia Department of Corrections had no record of Alexander being imprisoned. But his uncle said Alexander served several years in federal prison on a drug charge about 15 years ago.

Beverly Hunt, 38, of Roanoke, was outraged.

"Even if he was a drug dealer, how can they justify shooting James twice when he wasn't armed?" she asked, sobbing. "I was with James for two and a half years. He never carried a gun.

"They're just covering up. They've done it again. They've done it again. I've talked to the police and the way they were talking, I could tell they were thinking: We just got another black man off the street."

April 16- The Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader reports: A Louisville police officer who fatally shot a black man in the back was fired yesterday after the department ruled he violated policy on using deadly force.

"Your conduct is alarming and has damaged the bond which we have established with our community," Chief Robert White wrote in a termination letter to McKenzie Mattingly.

Mattingly has pleaded not guilty to murder in the Jan. 3 death of Michael Newby, 19, who was shot three times in the back. Mattingly is free on bond and has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting.

"Specifically, I felt that Michael Newby was not an immediate threat to the officer's life or his physical well being," White said at a news conference. "Nor was any other person in the area clearly in immediate danger because of Newby's actions."

Mattingly, 31, was indicted March 5 on charges of murder and wanton endangerment. Civil rights activists and many black residents held protests and called on White to fire Mattingly, who is white.

Newby was the seventh black man to be fatally shot by Louisville police in the past five years. In the previous shootings, no officers were charged criminally or fired.

Police said the shooting occurred during an attempted under-cover drug buy. Mattingly told investigators he was robbed during the drug transaction. He tried to arrest Newby but the two became involved in a struggle, according to court records filed by prosecutors after Mattingly was indicted.

April 16- The Age (Australia) reports: The Howard Government's drug taskforce is launching a new offensive against marijuana, with a booklet that the taskforce's head says will "tell the truth" and combat the "trivialization" of the drug's dangers.

Australian National Council on Drugs chairman Brian Watters yesterday said a "pro-marijuana lobby" had successfully promoted the idea that cannabis was no more dangerous than alcohol and should be legalized. "I think there has been a really concerted effort in some quarters to trivialize its effects," he said. "The pro-marijuana lobby have done very well. They are very, very active."

Major Watters, a Salvation Army officer with extensive experience in drug management, said he was "very opposed" to marijuana, because he had seen the damage it did. Marijuana has been linked with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, but opinion differs on whether it causes psychosis or simply triggers latent mental illness.

Major Watters dismissed the distinction. "I've always said, 'Who cares?' If my son suddenly develops schizophrenia, I don't care whether the marijuana caused it or triggered it," he said. "The result is he has a great deal of turmoil in his mind."

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