“The police do not have the right to run somebody down,” charged the Rev. Al Sharpton last Saturday during his weekly forum at the National Action Network (NAN) in Harlem.
Sharpton made this comment surrounded by the mother of Tamon Robinson, who was struck and killed by a NYPD cruiser on April 12 near a housing complex in Canarsie, Brooklyn.
According to the police, Robinson, 27, was pursued by the police after they saw him allegedly stealing cobblestones from the Bay View Houses.
Robinson, the police reported, ran to his mother’s building after being spotted. The police, two officers on foot and others in a patrol car, then chased him onto the sidewalk to cut off his escape.
Despite reports from two eyewitnesses who saw Robinson cornered and then struck by the car, the police maintain that he ran into the car.
“There is no way they can justify this,” Sharpton said, regarding any possible effort on the part of the NYPD to blame the victim. “Something is wrong here…and we are not rushing to judgment; it’s the police who are rushing to judgment.”
One eyewitness, Franchette Mowbray, 26, told the press, “They hit him and he flew up and came down. They backed the car up, and they told him to get up. People were yelling out their windows, screaming at the cops, ‘We saw what you did!’”
Several of Robinson’s friends said that he had permission to take the cobblestones since he had a business arrangement with companies who bought them.
“The penalty for stealing paving stones is not death,” attorney Sanford Rubenstein said. Rubenstein is representing the Robinson family and was at NAN for the rally.
Laverne Robinson expressed her gratitude to Sharpton and the NAN crowd for their support. “You are letting me know that I’m not alone,” she said.
Also in attendance were the parents of Ramarley Graham, who was killed by police in the Bronx on Feb. 2.
Councilman Charles Barron and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries currently vying for the congressional seat held by Ed Towns for 15 terms and who chose not to seek re-election sat side by side, awaiting an opportunity to voice their concern about the tragedy.
“Though they are in competition for office, they chose to be here to support the family of Tamon Robinson,” Sharpton told the audience.
“Who made you the judge, jury and executioner?” Barron asked rhetorically of the NYPD. “Just wait, the police will say Tamon hit the car.”
Barron said that if the police attempt to cover up this incident or fail to prosecute the police who killed Robinson, “we will shut the city down.”
Jeffries was equally outraged and charged that things have gotten worse under Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “But we are pro-community and not anti-police,” he said. He said it was clear to him that this was a case of “vehicular homicide.”
At the close of the event, Sharpton promised a series of rallies to be staged at the sites where Robinson and Ramarley Graham were killed.
Meanwhile, the police said the Robinson incident is under investigation by the NYPD Internal Affairs Department.