Last July 4th, eight year old Secoriea Turner was shot and killed as she rode in the back seat of a car with her mother, Charmaine Turner, and Omar Ivery. Their vehicle was shot at because they had made a wrong turn and found themselves near a then burned down Wendy’s restaurant, the sight of the police shooting death of Rayshard Brooks a few weeks earlier. In the intervening weeks, the Wendy’s had become the focal point of protests over Brooks’ death and site of several violent acts, including the burning down of the restaurant. Armed individuals had set up a road block and had effective control of the area. This is the location young Secoriea and her family found themselves on that fateful July evening.
Other factors leading up to Turner’s murder include the firing of Officer Garrett Rolfe, the officer involved in the 6/12/20 shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, and murder charges being filed against Rolfe by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard. Howard was in a tight reelection campaign (which he later lost), and many thought the quick filing of charges against Rolfe was more political than a decision based on the evidence. Rolfe has later been reinstated to the force, but his murder trial is still pending.
Additionally, Atlanta Chief of Police Erika Shields resigned on 6/13/20, with groups like the NAACP calling for her resignation in the wake of the Brooks shooting death. Shields was popular among Atlanta’s police officers. Earlier in June, six Atlanta Police Department officers were charged by District Attorney Howard with excessive force after tazing two college students who had violated Atlanta’s curfew. The curfew was put in place by Mayor Bottoms after several days of protests, looting, and destruction of property.
Needless to say, the relationship between Atlanta’s political leadership and Atlanta’s police force, had deteriorated in June of 2020 leading to the “blue flu” rumors and allegations.
Monday, Turner’s parents filed a lawsuit against the City of Atlanta, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Interim Police Chief Rodney Brooks, Atlanta Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd, and the Wendy’s corporation.
Local reporter George Chidi has been writing about the rise of crime in Atlanta and has a good article about this lawsuit.
The lawsuit filed today by Davis and the Cochran Firm appears to be the first to seek accountability for the “blue flu” sickout by the Atlanta police following the death of Rayshard Brooks and subsequent murder charge filed against officer Garrett Rolfe.
“Records from APD show that between Wednesday June 17, 2020, and Saturday June 20, 2020, a total of 171 APD police officers called out “sick,” the suit states.
I see in two places, the Secoriea Turner lawsuit makes factual allegations relying on my reporting from the protests.
”Following the news of the District Attorney’s charges, Major Kelley Collier sent a memo to APD officers on June 17, 2020 telling officers to refrain from ‘proactive’ policing,” the suit states, quoting my Intercept piece from June 24. “The memo stated as follows: ‘If not, effective immediately, we will operate as police officers and will respond when violence occurs in an officer’s presence and will respond to victims of violence. We will not be overly proactive in any shape, form or fashion. We are concerned about keeping our officers safe and healthy.’”
It also quotes a brief interview with one of the armed vigilantes. “A witness to the June 20th shooting (a drive-by shooting near the Wendy’s on 6/20/20 – Buzz) reportedly stated, ‘The police were here when the guy got shot. They saw the guy get shot. They saw the car that was shooting at us, and they didn’t pursue him.’”
Protecting the audio recording of that interview cost me a beating when I refused to hand over my cell phone to the vigilantes.
Blue flu will be an issue in this trial, but so to will be the actions of Mayor Bottoms and Councilwoman Sheperd. What is the origin of the memo to officers to refrain from proactive policing, and what role did that play in young Secoriea’s death? Was it ordered by Atlanta’s politicians or a decision made internally by Atlanta Police Department leadership?
I personally place little blame on rank and file officers. However, Police Department leadership, as well as Atlanta’s political leadership must be held accountable, if it can be proven their actions contributed to this horrible event.
As we approach the anniversary of her murder, we still owe it to Secoriea to bring her killers to justice, and hold those in authority accountable for allowing armed individuals to control the area around that Wendy’s.