Imagine that as a young man you had participated in the lunch-counter protests that catalysed the civil rights movement. Imagine yourself now an esteemed civil rights lawyer, about to emcee an event centered around the murder of a young black man. Imagine that you will be introducing Angela Davis, sixties icon and now crusader against mass incarceration and police violence. Then imagine that thirty minutes before the event is to start, you receive a phone call that your nephew has been arrested, a police officer is wounded, and the officer’s gun is missing or was taken from the officer by your nephew after he was stopped in his vehicle.
Now imagine that you are a young black man stopped by an unmarked vehicle. A man not in a police uniform comes towards your car shouting obscenities at you, attempts to pull out his weapon, shoots himself in the leg, then threatens to kill you (or maybe he threatens to kill you, then shoots himself — details are sketchy). Do you wait for him to make good on his threat or do you do something?
Carlos Riley, Jr., of Durham, North Carolina, the 21-yer old nephew of Oakland civil rights attorney Walter Riley (and the cousin of hip-hop artist, Occupier and activist Boots Riley, Walter’s son), decided to do something.
Fearing for his life, Carlos fled the scene in his car. According to the police, at this point he also took the cop’s weapon and badge away from him (If this happened, it was a smart move to make sure the cop didn’t shoot him in the back).
Needless to say the police left no craziness unturned in their effort to find Carlos.
An NBC-17 crew on scene said police tossed flashbangs into an apartment at 1348 New Castle Road, believing the suspect was inside. Police were also reportedly calling for “Carlos” to come out of the building.
No one was inside that apartment, but about the same time officers say they picked up Riley and two other men on Rosetta Drive and Trinity Avenue, and transported them to police headquarters for questioning.
(According to Boots Riley’s account, his cousin called the police and turned himself in).
When word of all this reached Walter Riley, he was about to emcee an event in memory of Alan Blueford. In tragic irony, Alan Blueford’s murderer, Oakland Police Officer Miguel Masso, also shot himself in the foot — whether before or after thrice firing at Alan has never been established.
Carlos Riley might well have been dead right now, accused by Kelly Stewart, the police officer who stopped him, of “reaching for his waistband.” Or Stewart might have claimed he thought that Carlos was reaching for a something that looked like a weapon, as so many police officers have done after they have killed so many unarmed men of color and the mentally ill. Fortunately Carlos is not dead, but he may end up spending a good portion of the rest of his life in prison.
Carlos Antonio Riley Jr., 21, is charged with assault on a law enforcement officer causing serious injury, robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Or not. His attorney, John Fitzpatrick, when asked why Stewart stopped Riley, said
That’s the million-dollar question… There’s a lot more to it that will come out in open court.
At least he will have a trial if he wants one. Where he will get to tell how it all came down. Unlike Alan Blueford, Manuel Diaz, Gary King, Ramarley Graham, 15 year old Derrick Gaines and multiple hundreds of others in the last few years alone, dead at the hands of police who are all but inevitably cleared of wrongdoing.
As Boots notes
We’d much rather have a campaign – to clear his name, get him out of jail, and expose police brutality – than one that mourns his death as another victim of murderous police.
Boots Riley is no stranger to campaigns.
“We’re gonna to shut it down.” — Boots (@ 6:20).
and Walter Riley is no stranger to fighting for justice…
…Walter established a practice in downtown Oakland, handling criminal defense, employment discrimination and police misconduct cases.
In recent years Walter’s political work has ranged from anti-apartheid actions, to local educational and health issues, to organizing anti-war demonstrations, to participation in labor struggles, to electoral politics, to street demonstrations against police brutality, to Occupy Oakland, and beyond.
Carlos Riley might have a fighting chance after all.