It's a day that sticks in Katina Crumpton's mind with complete clarity: Aug. 29, 2000, when she and other family members watched helplessly as a police officer killed her uncle, who could not hear or speak, in his driveway.
Fourteen years ago, Detroit Police Officer David Krupinski and three other officers arrived at the home of Errol Shaw, 39. They were responding to a report of a domestic disturbance. A 911 caller had said Shaw was chasing his kids with a knife, though the tipster reportedly later said the account was embellished to hurry the police. At trial, police said Shaw's father told them his son was under the influence of drugs and trying to attack his grandson.
The situation was made more dire because Shaw could not hear, and police could not understand the noises he used to communicate with his family. Officers told Shaw to drop the garden rake he was holding, while witnesses said family members tried to explain that he could not hear.
Police said Shaw then raised the rake over his head as if he were going to use it to strike one of the other officers, and Krupinski shot him once in the lower abdomen and once in the chest.
There are key details of the incident about which police and witnesses disagree.
"He never, ever, ever brandished a rake at all. Never," Crumpton said. "He never swung the rake, never charged the officer, never did any of that."
Krupinski was charged with manslaughter and acquitted in 2001.
Crumpton, who lives near Detroit, is now the same age as her uncle when he died. She told The Huffington Post she knew the "agony" felt by the family of Ferguson, Missouri, teenager Michael Brown after the police officer who fatally shot him was not indicted Monday. Here's her story:
I was devastated, but not surprised by the decision. I was very hurt for that family because I can understand the agony, the pain, the sorrow. I understand it all because we've been there as a family.
Now, when I see a police officer, I literally cringe. I get nervous. It's been that way with my entire family and people who know personally about our case. We have no trust in our judicial system, we have no trust in police officers anymore. It's very, very difficult as a community to move forward if we can't even trust the police to protect and serve.
There's still not a sense of normalcy when it comes down to what transpired with my uncle. Each day its a struggle for his mom, which is my grandmother.
One thing that stood out that particular day with my uncle was that all four officers were there. To me, [that doesn't show] an imminent threat.
I was actually pulling up [to the house] at the same time as police officers were arriving, not knowing exactly why they were there. When I got out of my car they were approaching him. He was deaf of course, and he had very high-pitched tones when he tried to speak. I think that maybe that had startled them. In the midst of all that, as I was walking towards the police officers, I was kind of stating to them, "He's deaf, he's deaf, he can't hear you." They were telling him to drop his rake, but he was actually going to do yard work. That's what he did in the summer.
They proceeded to tell me to stop coming, and I'm like, "He cannot hear you, let me interpret for him," and then one officer pointed the gun at me and told me to stay right where I was. Otherwise, they probably would have killed me too.
When [Krupinski] shot my uncle, my grandmother screamed to him and asked him why he did, and he said, "to protect my partner." Mind you, this particular partner he was speaking of was behind him.
Even though he was deaf, my uncle just had a way with people, had a beautiful smile, beautiful spirit, and he loved to cook for everybody. He was a good person. And the only thing that I think really hindered him that day was that he couldn't hear, he couldn't communicate on his own, which ultimately led to his demise.
As a human being, to be gunned down in the street like Michael Brown or my uncle Errol Shaw, it's like the judicial system is dehumanizing us as a people, like we are not a concern, like we are just not human beings.
It's utterly ridiculous how these officers are getting away with these senseless murders. The justice system needs a major investigation and an overhaul. That's the only way that we'll see change.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
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