Community Leaders Speak Out On Toto Kaiyewu Case

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A press conference was held at the Independent Media Center on June 25, 2009, where
community leaders spoke out about the police shooting of Toto Kaiyewu, a medical student
from Carbondale. When Kaiyewu, who is black, was passing through Villa Grove, a
former “sundown town,” his car was deemed suspicious and followed by a local cop. A
chase ensued that ended with police gunning him down on I-74.
Those who addressed the media charged racial profiling. They included (from left
to right) Patsy Howell, reading a statement from the Muslim American Society, Tracy
Parsons, who called the actions of the authorities “deplorable,” Erma Bridgewater,
long-time community activist, and Aaron Ammons of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice,
who called for changes to make this “more than just another black male killed by
the police.”
This response came the day after a coroner’s inquest ruled the death was a “justifiable
homicide.” When independent media members moved to interview jurors after the inquest,
they were interrupted by Vermilion County Coroner Peggy Johnson who told jurors they
did not have to talk to the media. I insisted that jurors have a right to talk to media and he
was subsequently escorted out of the building by Sheriff Patrick Hartshorn. Asked if he
would like to see a press badge, the Sheriff said, “I don’t care if you have a press badge.” In
2007, I was kicked out of a press conferencewithout explanation by Champaign Police
Chief R.T. Finney.
A public screening of videos from the Villa Grove squad car and with officers involved
will be held at the IMC in July.

About Brian Dolinar

Brian Dolinar has been a community journalist since 2004.
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