Comment: Group seeks
apology, debate on racism
Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County continue to mourn the police killing of Aura Rosser, an African-American artist and mother of three. Nothing will bring Aura back. However, the City Council, the prosecutor’s office and the chief of police have added insult to injury by shirking all responsibility. Beyond this, these local representatives of justice and democracy continue to criminalize the victim. The liberal university town is playing an active part in the national pattern of disregard for black lives. Locals are organizing in diverse ways to commemorate Aura and to fight for racial justice locally and nationally.
A new report, published anonymously by a coalition of community members, shines a spotlight on Prosecutor Brian Mackie’s decision not to indict Officer David Ried of the Ann Arbor Police Department, who killed Aura Rosser on Nov. 9, 2014. The pamphlet, titled “People’s Retort to the Prosecutor’s Report,” further charges that the Michigan State Police investigation on which Mackie based his decision was “incomplete and biased.” The retort is available at public locations in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, including the Ypsilanti public library, as well as online at radicalwashtenaw.org.
The report is based on an analysis of investigation materials made available to the public. Aura Rosser, 40, was shot and killed by Ried after he and Officer Mark Raab entered the home where she lived in response to a 911 call. According to witness statements, she held a four-inch fillet knife and walked three steps toward the officers before she was simultaneously shot and Tased, within 5-10 seconds of officers entering the home.
A few key questions about the investigation that the “People’s Retort” raises include:
• Why were Ried and Raab never interviewed or questioned by MSP investigators? Instead, they were permitted to submit written statements.
• Why did neither the MSP nor Mackie reveal to the public that Rosser was known to Ried prior to the fatal encounter?
• Why does Mackie claim that the toxicology report indicated Rosser “had recently ingested large amounts of both cocaine and alcohol,” when in fact the levels did not indicate recent use of cocaine?
The report also points toward larger structural questions. Can police impartially investigate cases of police homicide? Should broad legal protections for police use of lethal force be revisited in light of the national outcry over the frequency of police killings of African Americans?
The “People’s Retort” further argues that if Ried’s action cannot be prosecuted under current law, given broad protections granted police to use deadly force, authorities and the public still have a responsibility to scrutinize the behavior of officers on moral grounds. The community members call on Chief of Police John Seto and Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor to fire Ried, apologize and pay restitution to Rosser’s family, and engage in a community-wide debate on racism, economic injustice and police violence.
David Walker II