Racial profiling in officer shooting investigation?

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

KNOXVILLE (WVLT) - Knoxville Police Officer Norman Rickman remained in critical condition at UT Medical Center on Saturday. The 19-year KPD veteran was shot Tuesday afternoon while trying to stop a burglary.

Investigators have said little about his wounds, except that at least one came from a bullet fired at close range. Published reports have even quoted court documents that describe the shooting as "execution style."

Within 24 hours of the shooting, three men had been taken into custody as suspects. However not everyone has praised the methods which Knoxville Police used to catch those connected to Officer Rickman's shooting.

One of the most vocal has been Rev. Ezra Maize, a church activist from First A.M.E. Zion and a leader of Knoxville's chapter of the NAACP.

This weekend Rev. Maize was part of a 24 hour "Preach-A-Thon" for community peace. A peace he claims the circumstances surrounding the apprehension of Officer Rickman's alleged shooters has threatened.

"I totally understand that from the police department's perspective, they have to do their job," Rev. Maize, "but the flip side is that you can damage a community.

On Saturday, it had been four days since the shooting and three days the alleged shooter gave himself up, but Rev. Maize still hadn't changed his take on the police tactics that brought all three suspects into custody.

"You can lose trust in the police department when you take in a group of African American men, who are, all of them, not quote unquote involved with the crime," he said.

A day after the shooting, members of the Knoxville Police Department explained that profiling played no part in why the men were taken into question.

"Those guys were part of the folks that either ran from us, or we had some information to follow up with them," said a KPD representative.

Police have since charged convicted carjacker James Willie Murry and 17 year old Tony Dixon with burglary. They were among eight young black men detained and questioned in the hours following the shooting. Six were eventually released.

“What can we say about the other six that is justifiable,” asked Rev. Maize?

The police maintain that because the men ran, that made them suspicious and prompted them to pursue them. But Rev. Maize disagreed with how running from the scene could automatically make them suspicious, and questioned whether police made skin color their only grounds for suspicion.

“Hypothetically speaking, if a crime takes place and I'm running and trying to save my own life, is that just cause to take me in,” he asked? “I believe it was racial profiling.”

On Wednesday, police said that the six men detained were released from custody after they made it clear that they weren’t involved. On Saturday afternoon they stood by their decisions during the initial investigation.

“All persons were detained based on probable cause or leads that were provided to us in the course of our investigation,” said Sgt. Brad Anders, speaking for the police.

Rev. Maize said he knows the family of one of those young men police released, and feels that he was detained for no reason.

“That young gentleman had nothing to do with the shooting,” he said, “and again, you can damage people by making immediate decisions without thinking them through.”

He plans to meet with Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen sometime next week.


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  • by lulu Location: somewhere on May 28, 2008 at 03:35 PM
    The 8 eight people detained and questioned weren't just randomly picked from a crowd. They were picked because they were thought to know something. Everybody wants to be all non-judgemental but the truth is whe you run run with trash and trouble, you get associated with trash and trouble, then you get treated like trash and trouble!!! The world is not a fair place!!! Quit whining about it! (And just for the record...I am an African American)
  • by vince on May 28, 2008 at 02:51 PM
    well put larry. maybe everyone is racist?
  • by me on May 28, 2008 at 02:48 PM
    Anonymous, well said. People like the "rev" maize cause racism.
  • by Larry on May 28, 2008 at 09:27 AM
    Get over it already. Roughly 5 years ago me and 7 of my friends were held for about 2 hours because they were looking for someone that was vandalizing mail boxes, you know why we were held? Because we were WHITE and that matched the description they had. Does that mean I should get an apology too?
  • by Jackie Location: Knoxville on May 27, 2008 at 06:24 PM
    You can find racism right here in these posts. Many of those officers are racist. Not all but many. I overheard one asking his dog did he get a bit of a 15yr old black boy and all the little boy did was caught a ride so he wouldnt be out past curfew. You say we dont speak out but its been a year yesterday that my son was killed and the Detective has not bothered to interview many witness that would put his killer where he already is but I guess since he was not white it doesnt matter until they do something to you white folk. I made it a point yesterday to ask them and they havent heard from him. You folk talk that stuff until it happens 2 you. You dont have a clue and dont quailfy to comment on that subject cause as you already said you wouldnt be found there. So how can you speak about it? Oh I forgot you read it or heard it on the news....lol
  • by Anonymous on May 27, 2008 at 04:35 PM
    Joseph, you were detained and released, correct? So their was really no harm done, right? You were a little scared maybe? lost a few hours out of the day, but that's it? The important thing is that they caught the criminals and no more innocent people were hurt. So who cares if you are detained, cause it help clear your name and catch the criminals then you are thanked for helping. I am tired of the race card being played. Sure their are somr racist white people out thier but their are also racist black people too. I have noticed that often the black community play the race card and that causes me to dislike the community and i am sure it is a problem with others. So take reasponsability for your actions and stop causing the race problems. Keep playing the race card and you will create racist people on both sides....
  • by Phil Location: Knoxville on May 27, 2008 at 01:37 PM
    Mr. Maize should take the time to peruse the fourth ammendment to the U.S. Constitution before making himself sound like an idiot. If he is a true voice of his people, then the people he represents should demand that he be knowledgeable of the subjects he will be speaking about. First of all, most of the suspects were not detained based on probable cause. They were detained based on "Reasonable suspicion", which is clearly defined in "Terry v. Ohio" and other supreme court case law. In more recent case law, fleeing from a police officer in the area where a crime has just occurred is in itself reasonable suspicion to pursue, stop, and detain. The fact that they were black only increased that suspicion BECAUSE THE SUSPECTS IN THE SHOOTING WERE BLACK! The suspects that were charged reached the level of probable cause and therefore were arrested. Maize, try a little research before talking about things you know nothing about. If I were represented by the NAACP, I would be ashamed.
  • by kay Location: knoxville on May 26, 2008 at 05:26 AM
    Why would the police go after a white man ,If It was a black man that shot the officer? Come on, If you have a brain, Use It
  • by SF on May 25, 2008 at 02:51 PM
    The police chief owes this preacher nothing and it doesn't matter that he is black, red or green. First of all, this preacher needs to change his cloths before he goes on TV and speaks and needs to be presentable. Secondly, he said the officers need to speak before they act. He needs to be in these officers shoes for a few days and see how long he last because he stops to thinks before he acts with a gun in his face. The black police officers needs to meet with him and tell him just how the real world is. These black and white officers puts their lives on the line every day to protect people like him that runs his mouth without THINKING!People like this preacher are who gives a community a bad name.Our officers protect people like him and here is their thanks from his own mouth.He needs to use his 24 hours to contact people to give blood and support for this officer.Has anyone told this preacher the man who shot this office was black, why detain white people for questioning?
  • by Concerned on May 25, 2008 at 02:29 PM
    Were there any whites running at that time? Listen Maize, there are other ways for you to get recognized than using color as your prop. Running for their life? Please. And need I say, there was not a single black person at the candle light vigil Saturday night.Oh, yes they walked around just like other white people did. I was there and looked to see if one black person walked over, dropped their head in prayer, or ever offered a single word of encouragement to this family. And you want to use race to place black people at the point of being the victim! Don't use that as a prop. There are as many good black people as there are any other color. The fact is, all persons around the scene was suspected, "until proven innocent" and this quote is used on white people too when they are suspected of a crime. Where is your support of the victim? Have you been to the hospital yet? And by the way, what color was the man that shot the officer? Case closed.
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