Probably one of the hardest blogs/papers I ever had to write was an investigative essay about my uncle I did a few years back regarding my uncle. He was an influential part to my life today, and I will forever love him and I believe his story and Oscar Grants story deserve to be heard!
For weeks in spring of 2005, my cousin Ashley Johnson sat in an uncomfortable and imposing courtroom in U.S. District Court and listened as lawyers said awful things about her dead father, my uncle Tyrone Johnson.
Her dad, the team of lawyers said over and over, was a bad man. He was a drug user/seller. A negligent father. A criminal. Ashley Johnson, who turned 15 during the four-week trial, thought she’d heard it all. But Daryl Audilett, the lawyer representing the city of Tucson and its police and fire department paramedics, saved the worst for last. Glorifying the cops who beat and repeatedly pepper-sprayed my uncle on a scorching August morning in 1999, as I remember Audilett used a line from philosopher Edmund Burke, a man Ashley Johnson and most teenagers have never heard of, to tell jurors that my uncle was “evil.” The quote was as follows, “All that’s necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothin” (Edmund Burke). This quote explified that the cops “Good Men”, actually did something good to kill my uncle “Evil”
Tyrone Johnson was not “evil.” A one-time football star at Pueblo High School, Johnson saw his dreams of a Division I college career burst when a freak hit in practice ruined a knee before his senior year. Friends and family have said he was a big, fun-loving guy who coached youth football. But he had trouble with drugs. In fact, he was the person that put me in football at the age of five when my dad was in prison, and he watches over me today as I was an All American in high school, and play for a Division I college as I relive his dreams and aspirations.
The settlement, suggested by U.S. District Court Judge John M. Roll, averted a replay of a brutal trial and, for Rankin, the risk that jurors could be convinced that Tucson police officers Eric Murch and Floyd Ginn used excessive force when they ran Johnson down, beat him and pepper-sprayed him after they responded to a call, from an off-duty colleague. The only thing amiss was the leaking gas tank of a borrowed Cadillac that Johnson was trying to fuel.
A new jury also was not aloud to hear evidence, including from Dr. Randall Bennett, a former longtime paramedic and chief of emergency medicine at St. Joseph’s Hospital, that Tucson paramedics and Southwest Ambulance did not meet the community standard in caring for Johnson, an asthmatic who died as the ambulance was en route–at speeds slower than permissible–to Kino Community Hospital from near East Golf Links (place of the incident) and South Craycroft roads (where the hospital is).
Ray Thompson, off duty and awaiting golf partners, summoned Murch and Ginn in separate cars to the Circle K, 5501 E. Golf Links Road, when he saw Johnson and the leaking gas tank.
Stanton Bloom (my uncles lawyer) showed that Thompson was hardly a bystander who noticed gas dripping from the Cadillac. Tapes revealed that Thompson told Murch that Johnson was “one of his bad guys.” Bloom also showed that Thompson had Johnson under surveillance for 150 days at Johnson’s South Park Neighborhood home; that surveillance ended just three weeks before the fatal encounter. The surveillance was fruitless. And Bloom showed in court that the area’s top drug-fighting agency, the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Trafficking Interdiction Squads, spurned Thompson’s pleas to target Johnson.
Testimony showed Johnson was genial and relaxed while with Murch, though he initially gave the name Tim–his brother’s (my dad’s) name. Johnson also had taken steps to catch the dripping gas and to have the Cadillac towed. Then Ginn, according to his testimony, found a crack pipe on the front seat of the Cadillac. The pipe was never produced at trial. Police say it was “destroyed”. Destroyed yea right, I believe he never had one in the first place.
My uncle bolted when he feared being arrested. He hopped a short wall before the athletic Murch caught up with him, with the aid of pepper spray and a metal baton that he continued to use even after Johnson was down on the hot pavement of a driveway.
Neighbors testified that they did not believe my uncle was a threat and that he was exhausted and gasping for air. Tucson Fire Department paramedics responded, but did not administer oxygen or carefully monitor my uncle Tyrone’s heart and breathing, testimony showed. My uncle complained he could not breathe and that he had asthma. Paramedics called Southwest Ambulance.
Bloom and his experts said that Johnson should have been in an advance life-support ambulance with oxygen and heart monitors. Hands clamped behind his back, Johnson was placed on a gurney face down, then turned partially to his side in the ambulance that could have been, but wasn’t, driven at Code 3 with sirens and lights and at speeds on uncongested Golf Links of 60 miles per hour to Kino hospital, a little more than five miles away.
Johnson’s heart stopped and he quit breathing when the ambulance was a minute and a half away from Kino.
As I relate this to Oscar Grants case, nothing happened to the cops in my uncles case while in Oscar Grants situation based off new media punishment could NOT be ignored. Even though my uncle had a witness on top of his house witness the whole 27 beatings and pepper spray, no justice was done for my uncle. On the other hand, in Oscar Grant’s situation he had so many video recordings of what actually happened to him, that you could not help but say yea the police officer was guilty. The modern technology of “New Media” was able to get Oscar Grant some form of justice, when I bet if the man on his roof top had a video camera with him, their might have been more justice. Even though in my opinion, I think Oscar Grant’s fatal shooting was an accident, never the less it was a death, someone that you can not bring back. In my uncles case it seemed as though it was from brutal attacks of violence from the cops since they “KNEW” my uncle had asthma! No, I can never get my uncle back, but I believe we deserved more justice then what we got. Why would you beat a man 27 after he is bending over and can breath. Did they think he was playing a trick on them, for he might attack them? It makes no sense in one’s right mind to say he deserve 27 beatings (4 to the head) for “RUNNING” from a cop. I can understand if my uncle was “FIGHTING” them, but it was quite the opposite!
Even though I can not have my uncle back, I will continue to relive his dreams for he lives through me as I continue my journey to become successful.