– by Patrick Flanigan, Staff Writer –
Democrat and Chronicle.
Protesters marched and chanted in a cold November rain Saturday, demanding answers to questions raised by the death of a man who had been forcibly arrested by police officers in August.
“How could (police) beat a man and try to psyche everybody out into believing nothing happened?” said the Rev. Joy Powell.
About two dozen people gathered in the name of Lawrence Rogers outside the Wegmans supermarket on Driving Parlor Avenue and then drive to the Police Department’s Maple Section office.
Rogers, 30, of 214 Wilkins Street, died August 31 after he was arrested outside the Wegmans store. Rogers bit the tip off one officer’s finger during the arrest.
The county Medical Examiner’s Office last week ruled that Rogers died of cardiorespiratory arrest, and the District Attorney’s Office has determined that police and medical personnel did not cause his death.
But Saturday’s protesters said they don’t believe those rulings. Fueling their skepticism are a home video tape of the arrest and the accounts of several witnesses who said police appeared to use excessive force that night.
“The videotape tells the whole story,” Powell said.
Police Chief Robert Duffy has said that excessive force may have been used after Rogers was arrested.
His department is investigating the incident.
Several in the crowd Saturday said Rogers’ death – combined with the deaths of three other people who died during or shortly after dealing with police during the summer – raises questions about whether city police are trained to deal with the community they serve.
“What are they bringing to it in terms of their own prejudices?” said Jon Greenbaum, a member of Metro Justice.
Minister James Muhammad, a representative of the Nation of Islam, questioned why officers seem to be exonerated after every incident.
“I’ve never seen a perfect police department,” he said. “But the response always comes back that the police have been found not guilty. This is why we believe the federal court should intercede.”
Powell said she had hoped to talk with Duffy and Mayor William A. Johnson Jr. at the Maple Section police station.
She said she had left a message with the mayor’s office asking him to be there but received no confirmation that Johnson or any city representative would be available Saturday.
“I’m appalled that they’re not here,” Powell said.