Maxine was walking her 7 year old son to school when someone handed her a flyer. “Black Lives Matters” it read in big blue letters. Maxine was concerned about her son’s future but was concerned because a Criminal Justice Professor told her she could not have a career in law enforcement if she protested. Michael, another student in the class had stood up to the Professor and was given a D Grade in retribution for “making him look stupid” in front of his class. Maxine approached Michael after class and offered her support and told them she thought the gender based slur that the Professor had used against them – calling them “it” – was inappropriate and that they had a “common cause.” Michael said “I am not sure we do but I am always willing to talk.” Maxine reached out to Michael about the protest and Michael agreed to go with her and her son saying, “we have to be in this together for anything to change.”
Chamae was a Criminal Justice graduate and now worked for NYPD. She was working the protest and saw Michael, Maxine and her son in handcuffs. They had been accused of looting 10 blocks away from the protest. When Chamae suggested they could not have been involved, a senior officer stated,” What would you know? You don’t even have the right papers. It is amazing this country might let you and your family become citizens. Chamae was born in California and her Dad was born in Guatemala and her mom was born in Jamaica.
Tony and Svetlana met as Criminal Justice students, date for two years, and decided to get married. Svetlana was a citizen and Tony was a legal permanent resident. Svetlana grew up with a lot of family money but never knew where any of it came from. Tony’s family did not have much money and his parents rarely held a job. He had worked odd jobs since he was 10. Svetlana went to a private college and had gone to private schools her whole life. Tony had always gone to public schools. Both were B students and were active in co-curricular activities. Svetlana’s dad had an office in Manhattan and looters had broken the windows and stolen a large amount of imported retail merchandise and electronics. Svetlana was angry at the protestors at first but later found out that her father had been involved with organized crime and the items were stolen. Tony worked for the security company that protected Svetlana’s family store and had learned about the organized crime but figured it would be better to keep it to himself. Chamae was one of the police officers on the scene and reported to the senior officer who then worked with detectives. When they found out the family connection they detained Tony.
Tony was not given access to a lawyer and was detained in a building that had been set aside for dealing with looters during the protest. When he asked about getting a lawyer, the detective said, “sure thing buddy, we can get a public defender over here when they are done dealing with those stupid protestors.” Chamae overheard the comment but did not report it. She believed that because most of the police officers she knew were supported of Black Lives Matters, maybe his comment only represented a small minority. However, the detective did not make any effort to contact the public defender and questioned Tony anyway.
Tony had always been insecure about speaking in public and this questioning made him very nervous. He tried to answer all the questions but he did not have much information. He got the feeling the detective thought that he worked for Svetlana’s family. “Tony, what kind of name is that? Do you have any relatives in jail?” Tony thought this question had gone too far and asked for a lawyer again. The detective replied, “Unless you have the money, you ain’t seeing a good lawyer. What do you know one for anyway? You can’t pay for school. You have a minimum wage job. Isn’t that why you were in on the stolen merchandise?” Tony had no answer and just wanted it to be over. Just then, Chamae banged on the door yelling that there was a fire in the front entrance. The detective ran out leaving Tony handcuffed to the table in the room. Tony could smell smoke but he could not see the flames. There were several fires ablaze in the front of the building. Chamae’s senior officer demanded she go back in and “watch the prisoner.” Chamae refused and said that her duty was to deal with the growing crowd in front of the building and to ensure FDNY could get access to the fire. The senior officer threatened that she would be deported or at least demoted if she did not comply his with his command and he added, “besides, I guess you have to pick which one of your own you feel like sticking up for today.” Chamae took this to mean that he was implying that she was somehow related to the BLM protestors and Tony although she did not identify solely with any one ethnic or racial category. The senior officer then physically dragged Chamae into the building and threatened to have her family deported. Chamae relented and went to check on Tony whom she found passed out an unresponsive. Chamae attempted CPR and the ceiling caved in from the fire and killed her and buried Tony (already likely dead) under 3 feet of concrete and asbestos. Chamae’s family asked about wrongful death benefits but the senior officer told the family that she had volunteered to go into the building which was not an official NYPD property excluding her from death benefits.