Shot down by Atlanta police

May 19, 2009

The shooting of Tramaine Miller, an unarmed Black man, by Atlanta police has sparked community anger and protests, reports Patrick Dyer.

ATLANTA--"What is a Black man's life worth in Atlanta?" radio deejay Derrick Boazman asked the angry crowd at City View Apartments. More than 200 people had gathered for a May 12 candlelight vigil and community rally to end police shootings.

The vigil was for 28-year-old Tramaine Miller, the latest victim of Atlanta police, who was scheduled to undergo emergency surgery May 14. Tramaine had been hospitalized in serious condition since May 5 when off-duty Atlanta cop Reginald Fisher shot him in the face at point-blank range. The bullet shattered his jaw and was still lodged in his skull.

Community anger accelerated when Tramaine's family courageously released a photo of Tramaine's swollen face in his Grady Hospital bed. Pastor Derrick Rice called this "the same courage Emmett Till's mother exemplified," in reference to Emmett Till's open-casket funeral following his vicious lynching and mutilation by Southern racists in 1955.

Tramaine was delivering medication to his quadriplegic aunt, who lives in City View Apartments, when Fisher, who was moonlighting as a "courtesy officer," deemed Tramaine "suspicious" and drew his gun. According to witnesses, Fisher then smashed Tramaine's window and shot him in the face. Miller was unarmed.

The family of Tramaine Miller released his hospital photo after he was shot by an Atlanta cop
The family of Tramaine Miller released his hospital photo after he was shot by an Atlanta cop

Witnesses also reported that after shooting Tramaine, Fisher, who remains on paid leave, didn't call for any medical help, leaving apartment residents to call 911. As a result, Tramaine lay bleeding in his car for 30 minutes without any assistance. "There's nothing to indicate there was any concern from officers about Mr. Miller living or dying," stated Tramaine's attorney Muweli Mel Davis.

Many at the rally likened this to the police treatment of Katherine Johnson, who was murdered in 2007 by Atlanta police after officers raided the wrong house and shot her. As the 91-year-old Johnson bled to death on her living room floor, police handcuffed her and planted drugs.

Police harassment and violence "happens all the time," said rally attendee Frederick Huston, an electrician who was born and raised in this neighborhood. "We're used to it." As he showed the scars on his wrists from police handcuffs, he added, "This is modern-day slavery."

Following Johnson's murder, the Atlanta Citizen Review Board was formed in an attempt to provide more oversight of Atlanta police. But the board has been impotent in the face of the blue wall of silence. "Atlanta police have consistently and repeatedly refused to provide requested reports, information, recordings and other records," admitted board chairperson Roderick Edmond.

Local activist Sacajawea Hall summed up the necessity for grassroots organizing to stop police terrorism. "I think it's important every time something like this happens to come into the streets," said Hall. "Things like this can't happen unrecognized, without repercussions."

Further Reading

From the archives