Reporting and photos: Nissa Tzun
The press conference and rally was attended by the Byron Williams family and around 20 other people, several of them who had been directly impacted by police violence. Holding the banner titled, "We are the mothers impacted by police violence," is police shooting survivor, Terry Rogaczewski, who was shot while under the influence of the controversial sleep aid, Ambien (whose holding the portraits of police homicide victims Tashii Brown, killed on Mother's Day 2017, and Rex Wilson, killed on October 13, 2016), and Alma Chavez, mother of police homicide victim, Rafael Olivas, who was killed on July 14, 2011 when Chavez called 911 for help because Olivas was having an emotional breakdown. September 14, 2019, Las Vegas, NV.
Las Vegas, NV - On Saturday, September 14, a group of around 20 activists and police violence survivors organized by Minister Stretch Sanders, the Byron Williams family, and Families United 4 Justice-Las Vegas, convened at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Headquarters at 400 S. MLK Blvd. The event was announced earlier in the week, contacting the press so that they would be prepared to ask the family any questions in regards to the in-custody death of Byron Williams last Thursday. Williams was allegedly riding his bicycle without a safety light, a misdemeanor crime that can result in up to $1000 fine, and up to 6 months in jail. LVMPD attempted to pull over Williams, with the commands, "Metro police, fxxkin' stop! Metro police, fxxkin' stop! Get off the fxxking thing!" Williams continued riding his bicycle, then ditched it and began running on foot. Within an hour and a half's time, Williams was dead.
Minister Stretch Sanders of All Shades United opened the press conference for the Byron Williams family. September 14, 2019, Las Vegas, NV.
The group expressed having many questions about the incident especially in regards to the body worn camera footage. "It's not okay for the police to drive the narrative of what happened. Because again there were seven videos that we were shown. The public was only shown one. The defamatory behavior, the negative comments, the obscene language that they used towards him. You guys didn't see that, but we as a family, we struggle with that every moment," remarked Jeffery Thompkins, the stepson of Byron Williams.
Byron Williams' stepson, Jeffery Thompkins, expresses the pain he and his family are feeling for their loss, and their frustration with the LVMPD and their lack of transparency around Williams' in-custody death. September 14, 2019, Las Vegas, NV.
The family and the group are demanding full transparency from LVMPD, demanding the release of all of the body worn camera footage, raw and unedited, of which the LVMPD Public Informations Office confirmed there was over an hour of. Forced Trajectory Project and journalist Marquis Ealy of Status Coup have already filed and been denied requests for the footage. Organizers asked mainstream outlets to support them by filing requests also.
"We want America to see that, the full unedited version," said Williams' niece, Teena Acree. "You will hear police officers disregarding his cry for help."
Jeffery Thompkins, brother of Kelly Williams (the daughter of Byron Williams), embraces his sister. Behind them is Teena Acree, Williams' niece, and to the right are Keith Davidson, the family's attorney, and Carmon Scott, Williams' fiancee and mother of both Jeffery and Kelly. September 14, 2019, Las Vegas, NV.
In addition to the footage, other demands were made. Minister Stretch Sanders questioned why elected officials and known-community leaders were not present at the press conference when some of them had just met previously in a private meeting with several LVMPD captains about the incident just a few days before. "Everybody play a role. These legislators..ya'll not tired of us being killed? Why are so many politicians quiet? Where the mayor, where her statements at?" said Sanders.
He also hinted to possibly organizing more direct actions in the future. "The police are killing the people. And we're demanding and asking that it stop. When we say 'no justice no peace,' we have to mean that. We may have to disrupt business as usual. We may have to block traffic. We may have to boycott certain businesses."
Families impacted by police homicide and police brutality survivors also spoke. Alma Chavez, mother of Rafael Olivas, who was killed on July 14, 2011, stated her mistrust in the LVMPD, even after the reform process they went through with the Department of Justice in 2011. "It was more than 75 recommendations for changes. They were internal. We don't want that. We want the legislators to do the changes, because they change - as you see, whatever changes they do, they manipulated us and it is convenient for them. I'm tired of it. I'm tired of seeing family members suffering like me. [It] has been 8 years for me of pain seeing my family going down. You have no idea how our lives is after - you know - our loves are murdered. I'm here in support of the family...Williams. I'm so sorry you have to go through this. We hope that the governments make changes to protect the citizens, not to protect the police. The police has already so many protections."
Alma Chavez, mother of police homicide victim, Rafael Olivas, says the reforms made by LVMPD in 2011 were internal and ineffective. September 14, 2019, Las Vegas, NV.
"Byron Williams was loved. He is loved," said Keith Davidson, the Williams' family attorney. "21 times he told the police officers who were arresting him, 'I can't breathe, I can't breathe, I can't breathe.' 21 times. And the last words that Byron Williams heard, is from a Las Vegas Metro Police Officer, telling him no one was coming for him, no help was coming for him. We're going to get to the bottom of this. No stone will be left unturned. Justice will be served."
Families United 4 Justice-Las Vegas participated in the press conference and rally so that they could meet and embrace the Byron Williams family. From left to right: Terry Rogaczewski, police brutality survivor, Teena Acree, niece of Byron Williams , Kelly Williams, daughter of Byron Williams (holding a portrait of police homicide victim Tashii Brown), Dr. Jeffery Thompkins, stepson of Byron Williams, Carmon Scott fiancée of Byron Williams, Alma Chavez, mother of police homicide Rafael Olivias and Petra Wilson, widow of police homicide victim Rex Wilson. September 14, 2019, Las Vegas, NV.
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