Saturday, April 24, 2010

Action Brief: Justice for Kofi Adu-Brempong!



A compilation of comments and newspaper reports edited by Nana Akyea Mensah, the Odikro

 Kofi Adu-Brempong, a 35-year-old Ghanaian post-graduate student pursuing a Ph.D degree in Urban Geography, and working as a teaching assistant at the University of Florida, USA, who could barely walk without the aid of a walking cane, was shot with a bean bag gun three times, and shot in the face at close range with an M-4 Bushmaster, a military assault rifle, by the University Police Department (UPD) in his own apartment at Cory Village, on the campus of the University of Florida (U-F) for "resisting arrest" in an ordinary noise ordinance violation. All these occurred within 40 seconds of entry into the premises of a mentally and physically disabled, 5 foot 4 inch person by five able-bodied and supposedly "well-trained" police officers. 

Adu-Brempong's research areas include urban geography, urban and regional analysis and planning and spatial analysis and modeling with a research topic in urban spatial change in Ghana and implications for environmental sustainability, according to UF's Web site. On the professional network LinkedIn, Adu-Brempong lists his education at UF from 2005 through 2009. Another site where students rate professors is complimentary of Adu-Brempong. One entry from November 2009 said he likes to be called "The True Son of Africa" and is "an amazing guy." "He's a really great guy to just talk to after class and he really enjoys teaching," the entry stated.

Police Chief Linda Stump said officers had also been in contact with Adu-Brempong on Monday, but details on that contact were not immediately available. Stump said the incident began at 8:17 p.m. and marked the first time in at least a quarter century that a campus office had fired on someone on campus. "I do know that our officers had an on-again, off-again dialogue with him until about 10 p.m.," Stump said. "When we lost contact with him, our officers made the decision to enter his apartment." Once inside, officers said they found Adu-Brempong wielding a pipe and a large knife. The "pipe" in question was his walking cane!

Adu-Brempong had difficulty walking and used a cane, according to his neighbors and students. One neighbor said Adu-Brempong parked his car in the grass next to his apartment because he had problems carrying groceries from the nearby parking lot. One student who took his geography class last semester, Daniel Lynch, said Adu-Brempong suffered from ailments related to a childhood bout of polio. He said Adu-Brempong was hunched over when he walked and relied on the cane to get around. "He called himself the three-legged son of Africa," Lynch said.

The police had been informed of Kofi's mental problems the previous day, March 1st, 2010. According to a police report issued after the shooting, Geography Professor Peter Waylen contacted police to say that Adu-Brempong had sent an e-mail with troubling statements, which were redacted in the police report.  Waylen told police Adu-Brempong had been having delusional thoughts for at least a year and that he had previously received help from a UF counselor because he was upset over a belief that the U.S. government was not going to renew his student visa, the report stated. Waylen and an officer spoke with Adu-Brempong at his apartment Monday. University of Florida police released a report from a police visit on Monday to the student and graduate assistant. 

In a related article published on Monday, March 15, 2010, Nathan Crabbe of the Gainsville asks: "Was UF shooting avoidable?" and answers it in the subtitle: "Mental health experts: If police had used Baker Act, things may have ended better". Betty Strayer, who deals with Baker Act admissions as vice president for emergency services at Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, said she sees a difference in officers who receive the training. Those officers tend to show more knowledge about the Baker Act and mental illness, she said. She said law enforcement need to be aware that they can use the act without threat of lawsuit or repercussions. "If we decide after the evaluation that they don't meet the criteria, then we release them," she said.
"I asked Adu-Brempong if he had any concerns that I could help with. Adu-Brempong advised that he was fine and did not need anyone's help," Officer Gene Rogers wrote in the report. "I advised him that Waylen and I were concerned for his safety and were there to assist him any way we could." The report states Adu-Brempong refused help from a counselor and stated several times that he was fine and that the group was bothering him. On March 2, 2010 was apparently having a nervous breakdown (due to visa renewal worries) in his apartment at UF's Corry Village housing complex. His shouting and other erratic behavior brought members of the UF campus police to Corry Village, where they surrounded his apartment and evacuated his neighbors. 

After about two hours of oral negotiations (in which UF's understaffed mental health counselors were not involved), during which they confirmed that Adu-Brempong was alone and threatening no one, the police kicked down his door. Five officers entered the apartment. In less than  half a minute (21 seconds!), they shocked Adu-Brempong three times with a taser, shot him twice with a beanbag shotgun, and blasted him in the face with an M4 military assault rifle. An ambulance took him to UF-affiliated Shands Hospital, where he remains with a bullet lodged dangerously near his spinal cord and unable to speak due to mouth injuries.

Dispatcher calls show that officials requested an ambulance at Corry Village just before 10 p.m. and that the incident initially reported stated the patient had shot himself and had facial wounds, the Alachua County Sheriff's Office reported. The call then stated that a knife and a gun were involved. Another call came in two minutes after 10 p.m. and was listed as an assist another agency with university police requesting that Sheriff's Office forensics investigators respond to the scene. This call reported that the patent had a gunshot and stab wounds and that this was believed to be a suicide attempt, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Art Forgey. However, the call taker later amended the report saying that this was an officer-involved shooting.

Adu-Brempong has been charged with aggravated assault on an officer and resisting an officer with violence. For over three weeks, he was under continuous guard by two county deputies before his family posted a $10,000 bond to prevent him from being transferred to the overcrowded local jail. Reported medical costs already approach $300,000.

As UF Student Fernando Figueroa stated during a recent demonstration on Democracy Now!: “We’re demanding that all charges be dropped against Kofi, because they’re trying to do, you know, kind of something what’s called extortion. Like they’re saying, ‘Oh, we’ll drop the charges if you don’t file a lawsuit.’ And so, we’re demanding that all the charges be dropped and that more severe action be taken against the offending officer, Keith Smith.”

Media reports include: "The officer who shot Kofi Adu-Brempong has been identified as Keith Smith. He has previously been reprimanded for an incident in which he allegedly harassed and threw eggs at African Americans while off-duty." Three Gainesville police officers received written warnings for their actions in these incidents, according to the city police department. Smith, hired in November 2005, received a verbal warning for his involvement and was removed from his recently assigned position to the narcotics task force, university police reported at the time.

Meanwhile instead of compensating Kofi for his totally undeserved and avoidable injuries, they have proceeded to charge Kofi! Keith Smith had one month of leave of absence and is back to the police force since 2nd April! Adu-Brempong is facing charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill and five counts of resisting an officer with violence, according to Alachua County court records. Police, in their arrest report, alleged Adu-Brempong threatened officers, both verbally and by his actions. Officers who were involved were Keith Smith, William Sasser, James Mabry, Stacy Ettel, and William Ledger, the report stated.

According to Brandon Kutner, the President of PBA, says the police did nothing wrong even though they knew about Kofi's mental condition the previous night!

Jamel Lanee: "David, the Police Benevolent Association is representing the five officers who were involved in the shooting on March 2nd. The investigation was in the hands of the F-D-L-E but was completed on Friday and turned over to the State Attorney. PBA members say they believe the results in the investigation in a comment Adu-Brempong made to a local newspaper will show the officers acted accordingly and by the book!"

Brandon Kutner: "Reference was made to the metal rod being a cane he used, errh, to walk possibly, urh, because of his, errh, childhood disease with polio, errh, by his own admission and by his own statement given to the Sun, he was lucid that night, urrhm, he knowingly pulled off that, errh, rod off his computer desk and swung it on the officers."
Click here to: Watch Video

As Fernando Figueroa, of Gainesville SDS noted: “We will not let up until we gain justice for Kofi. We are taking a stand against police brutality and racism on our campus and throughout the country... It is astounding to see so few reporters covering the point blank shooting of an African man in the face here. This is the same campus where you could not walk ten feet without bumping into a reporter or TV crew following a white student’s famous ‘Don’t tase me bro!’ incident.”


Please, join the Coalition Against Police Brutality,  Justice for Kofi Adu-Brempong to demand:

  1. UPD drops all charges against Kofi
  2. An Independent Grand Jury investigations into the shooting.
  3. Implementation of an independent review board for the UPD
  4. Indefinate unpaid suspension for the shooter, Keith Smith, pending investigation.
  5. Improvement of mental health and crisis services on campus to prevent future incidents.
  6. Elimination of UPD's Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT).
Coalition members include Students for a Democratic Society, African Student Liason, Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), NAACP, Graduate Assistants United (GAU), International Socialist Organisation (ISO), Amnesty International. There have been three on-campus protests and marches. The first one was on Tuesday April 6th, the second 16th March,  the last one was on Tuesday 20th March, 2010. The students of the University of Florida just returned from spring break (when the shooting occurred). 

Updates on further organizing, Adu-Brempong's condition, and more are regularly posted at the "Justice for Kofi Adu-Brempong" Facebook page, (Facebook membership not required to view).

For More Information: 
Dave Schneider- (407)-267-1419; 
Justin Wooten - (352)-213-6519

Photos from Justice for Kofi Adu-Brempong

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Added April 6, 2010.
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Fellow Ghanaians, Africans and citizens of a free and democratic world! Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere! As UF Student Fernando Figueroa stated during a recent demonstration on Democracy Now!:

“We’re demanding that all charges be dropped against Kofi, because they’re trying to do, you know, kind of something what’s called extortion. Like they’re saying, ‘Oh, we’ll drop the charges if you don’t file a lawsuit.’ And so, we’re demanding that all the charges be dropped and that more severe action be taken against the offending officer, Keith Smith.”

It has been said that the best way to pray is to speak to yourself, and the best way to speak to the authorities is to speak to your neighbours, family and friends about your problem and ask them to do the same thing! Whenever justice is not only fair, but also not seen by all to be fair, it is no longer a legal case, it becomes a political problem. This is the time for all of us to come out with original and creative ways of raising public awareness to this case if our own media is failing us. We should cry our own cry and shout our own SHOUT! 

My attention to this case was on the 17th of March during my routine watch of Democracy Now! A daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 800 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the U.S. Slowly but surely, we will be heard! I did not just want to be a spectator of this struggle but a participant in it, even though I reside far away on the other side of the Atlantic. I followed it up with a google search and it was easy to find the group on facebook.

I simply realised that not many Ghanaians are yet aware of what is going on, that, it was going to take a lot of time each time someone decided to know what is going on enough to make informed responses. I decided to do a fact sheet and a regular news updates as my contribution for not being able to attend the Rally at the Plaza! This is therefore not an official site of Justice4Kofi, it is a blog of an active member. So far as one is being sensitive to the good work being done by the coalition, we can all play a part in getting the message across! 

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Over to you!


Nana Akyea Mensah, The Odikro.

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