"The mind disconnects between what you want and wish 'it' to be and the terrible agonizing pain that is always just below the surface. There is the silent scream of denial that is so poweful that you wonder if it will ever come out and set you free or imprison you forever."
(Written by Dorothy Copp Elliott for the Washington Peace Letter, November 1994)
On the way home from his construction job late in the afternoon, 24-year-old Archie "Artie" Elliott, III was stopped for driving erratically. Jason Leavitt of the District Heights police pulled Artie over at the corner of Kipling Parkway and Marbury Drive in District Heights, Maryland. Leavitt then administered a sobriety test which Artie failed.
In such cases, it is normal to arrest the individual involved. After sitting on the curb for some time as instructed, Artie, dressed in only shorts and tennis shoes, was searched. His wrists were then cuffed behind his back. He was seated in the front seat of Leavitt's squad car. Leavitt secured him in the seat with the seat belt. The car door, with its tinted window was closed.
After Artie was in the car, Wayne Cheney of the P. G. County police force arrived as backup. As the two officers were standing beside the car talking, one of them allegedly "saw" through the tinted window that the drunk, handcuffed and seat-belted Elliott was pointing a gun at them. Both officers opened fire and emptied their semiautomatic handguns into their prisoner. In less than five seconds, ALL FOURTEEN (14) BULLETS HIT THEIR TARGET.
Police say they recovered a small, unloaded, .22 handgun from the scene. However, in the last three years, they haven't released information about this alleged gun. According to news reports, several witnesses have said that they saw no gun near Artie. His parents have never known him to have a gun.
Artie's father, a judge, and his mother, a teacher, decided to let the "justice" system take its course. Considering the circumstances, both expected the officers would be held accountable for Artie's death.
However, when the case came before the grand jury, both officers were acquitted of any wrongdoing. The grand jury's recommendation was that officers receive more training on proper search procedures. Apparently, they believed Artie's death was due to the officer's feeling insecure about their ability to search their prisoner. After thirteen months of paid vacation and cleared of any wrongdoing, both Leavitt and Cheney went back to work.
Twenty months after Artie's death, on February 18, 1995, one of those officers, Wayne Cheney, killed again. This time, again, he was responding as backup. With one bullet, he killed Michael Donald Reed. This time, again, he was exonerated.
The death of Artie Elliott, and the subsequent exoneration of both officers involved, is not an isolated incident. The repeated exoneration of an officer for killing those in his custody is not an isolated incident. Just ask the Kelley or Mobley families in Alexandria. Otis Kelley and Joseph Mobley were both killed by Scott Ogden, who remains on the Alexandria force with the full support of the police chief.
"The people themselves must organize for their own defense, or it won't get done." Mumia Abu-Jamal