Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Ordeal of Christi Ketchum

The reports of police brutality or misconduct with regard to people of African descent are so numerous that the public has become numbed, almost to the state of indifference. It is no accident that the infamous Angola prison is filled with African-Americans. One must ask how many of them were forced to plea-bargain and even admit to crimes they didn't commit. How many of them were represented by lawyers who really didn't have their best interest at heart. Why do we have a black woman executed only because she bought a life insurance policy for her husband while a white man who was responsible for the beheading of a black man has his life spared? These two incidents happened in the state of Texas where in another community there was a police attempt to incarcerate an entire black community (including its senior citizens) on a ficticious drug charge. Fortunately through the efforts of people like the late "Grandpa" Al Lewis and comedian-activist Randy Credico the black people of Tulia, Texas were acquitted mainly because of the effort to bring this case to public scrutiny. White House Press Secretary Tony Roberts would have us believe that the days of blatant racial discrimination are over, but in reality it is alive and well.Recently I was informed of the case of Christi Ketchum. Here you will find an account of her ordeal in her own words.................. INCIDENT STATEMENT
The following is a factual statement regarding events that occurred to me on Saturday, June 10, 2006. I, Christi H. Ketchum with Damon Bowman patronized the El Ranchero Restaurant on Old National Highway. We enjoyed appetizers and I had a Sweet Tea. We left the restaurant after about 45 minutes and Damon went to pay the bill and go to the Bathroom and I proceeded to the parking lot and got in the car. It was very hectic in the parking lot with a lot of people and cars passing by so I backed out of the parking space to give someone else the spot. After I put the car in park there was an unidentified male with a royal blue t-shirt & black pants on the right side of my car and as I went forward to wait for Damon on the side of the building, he shined a flashlight into my car and smiled at me. I waved and continued forward then I heard a hard banging on the trunk of my car. I stopped the car and asked him “Is there something I can help you with?” He then came to the driver side acting very casual striking conversation asking “OHHHow I was doing,” “Why didn’t I stop,” “Where was I going,” and series of other questions including “Did I have any thing to drink?” I attentively listened and replied that I had a “Sweet Tea.” He continued to badger me for a few more minutes when he asked me to show him my Driver’s License. I asked him who he was and why he wanted to see my license. He asked the question over again and I told him No! He became very angry, raising his voice and I felt very vulnerable and scared as I was alone in my car, in a dark parking lot with a man hovering over me. I have seen men attack women in similar situations and intuitively the situation was going to very volatile, very quickly. I told him that I was leaving, put my car in Drive, and proceeded out of the crowded parking lot, stopped at the intersection waiting for the intersection to clear and made a right onto Old National Highway then waited at the intersection of Old National and Godby Road for oncoming traffic before turning left. As I proceeded down Godby I called Damon to let him know what happened to me. I was sitting at a Red Light then the light turned Green and I saw the flashing lights of police car and I pulled over. Officer Ivy came to my car he asked me where I was coming from and I told him the Mexican Restaurant and told him I just had an altercation with an unidentified man, he interrupted me and asked for my drivers license and informed me that the unidentified man was a Police Officer when two more police officers approached my car. I retrieved my driver’s license and tried to tell the officers what happened when Captain Kuzniacki and other officers told me to ‘Save it for the judge’ and Officer Ivy told me if Officer Bailey, the original man who approached me, identified me as the suspect I was going to jail. Also, he stated that by law he didn’t have to identify himself to me. A police car arrived with Officer Bailey, who got out of the car and told me to put my hands behind my back and told Officer Ivy to tell me what I was being charged with, Aggravated Assault against a Police Officer. I was completely shocked as I was put in the police car and was told my car would be impounded. I was taken to the College Park Police Station. As I arrived inside the holding area Officer Wade asked why I was there jokingly. I proceeded to tell him what happened - he said “Whatever” and I was handcuffed to the bench. I was given a Blood Alcohol Test by Officer Ivy. The results came back .000 he put a copy inside my purse and told me I should talk to Officer Bailey when he came to do the report. I was then placed in a holding cell with another lady. I waited in the cell and had to use the bathroom when Officer Bailey came to the cell. I came to the door and he told me I was being charged with Aggravated Assault against a Police Officer and Eluding a Police Officer. I pleaded with him that I was unaware that he was a Police Officer; I was really tired because I had just finished coordinating a week-long Youth Leadership Academy and could he please drop the charges. He told me that was too bad and he would be back after he wrote up the tickets. He came back and I was told to sign the tickets which was now a total of 4 charges/tickets that included the following: Aggravated Assault on Officer, Reckless Driving, Obstruction of Officer, Eluding a Police Officer. I asked why there were 2 more charges and he said there would have been another charge but he couldn’t find the code for it. I signed the tickets and continued waiting in the cell. After I was in the cell for approximately 3 hours, I was told to come out to get booked. When I came to the booking/reception area there was 3 other officers along with Office Bailey & Wade. They were very disrespectful as I waited to be booked. Some of the comments included “Them Dykes at Rice Street Going to Love you” by Officer Wade and one of the other Officers in the area said “I was lucky my brains weren’t sitting in the passenger seat.” I was also called the “Shitty Girl” because I had to defecate while in the holding cell. It was a totally demeaning, humiliating experience as I was ridiculed for quite some time. At one point when I was being fingerprinted Officer Wade told Officer Bailey he should “drop these bullshit charges” and Officer Bailey responded “I know.” I again pleaded with the Officers to no avail. After the booking was complete I was sent back to the holding cell. After the shift change later that morning I was transported by a Police Van handcuffed to another inmate in the back of a transport van. I was taken to Fulton County Rice Street Jail. There I was told I would not be able to bond out until my court date the next day, Monday, June 12th at 11 AM. During my Pre-Trail interview the staff lady told me to share my case with Sergeant Shaw, I told him about the incident and his response was “It sounds like a misunderstanding, and all I can say is I’m sorry that this happened to you.” I had to give a urine and blood sample and be given a TB test, along with being fingerprinted and photographed a second time. I was in the intake area on June 11 – from 9 AM –to well after 1 AM when I was taken to a cell. I was escorted to court the next morning. My case was heard first and I was represented by Attorney Ted Johnson. The Judge was very adamant about his disgust with the case and even said “the Officer was the one doing the assaulting.” The case was dismissed completely. The Attorney told me it would take 8 to 24 hours for me to be released. I was released Tuesday, June 13, 2006 at 3 AM.

CHARACTER STATEMENT
I am a child of a wonderful single mother, Patricia A. Franklin who has instilled great qualities of life for me to be an upstanding & outstanding women and professional. I have led a life that reflects responsibility, courage, and perseverance. In High School I was on the Honor Roll & Who’s Who of American High School Students. I graduated from Clark Atlanta University and have been a program director with Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty & Genocide for 6 years. I work with youth ages 13-18 in their development as leaders and critical thinkers. I have always worked to make a difference in my community and be a role model.

My life will forever be changed by this horrible and traumatic experience. The things I endured during the 51 hours I was held are unreal. This has been especially disheartening as me along with youth leaders as we prepare for our 6th Annual Youth Day. The leaders have been working hard but this ongoing harassment and interference has interfered with my capacity to give these deserving youth my complete attention. In this clear case of misuse of power and privilege I am still feeling the effects. Friday, July 7th, I received a letter from Superior Court that the District Attorney’s Office took my case to a Grand Jury and I have to appear in court on July 31st, 2006 at 9:30 AM. I am outraged by this system and how I have been criminalized and victimized. I must tell my story because this happens every day and could happen to anyone.


THE FACTS………………………
I was on Private Property which limits jurisdiction
There was no probable cause to approach me or my vehicle
The unidentified man at the restaurant did not properly identify himself
The officer was off duty acting as a ‘peace officer’

One of the most devastating confirmations are the comments made by an Officer at the restaurant who made several comments in front of Damon on how they were going to make-up charges on me; they were going to use this as a case study; and how College Park rookies are being trained as attack dogs. I was sexually harassed, and falsely charged and targeted with intent to punish cruel and unusually based on the severity of the charges.

HOW CAN YOU HELP………………..
I need people who can actively give critical advice re: officials that I should contact
Call and/or send letters to the College Park Police Department, (404) 761-3131 to voice your outrage re: the practices of their officers. Address: P.O. Box 87137, College Park, GA 30337.
Be ready to attend and mobilize for any future hearings, actions etc.
I really need your support & love as I endure this personal attack. I will be in touch and keep you all updated.

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