Jury Finds City of Rockford Liable For Cops Reckless Conduct
Posted by Xena
Through the years, some of you might have read when I’ve reported on the 2009 death of Mark Anthony Barmore in Rockford, IL.
It’s not often that I write editorials or opinion pieces. About this matter, this time is different because this case happened in the city where I live. Although Illinois has agreed to allow the media in courtrooms, we only get a 3 to 5 second snippet of trials in local television news.
When Mark was killed in 2009, I learned first-hand that things I had heard about Rockford were true. I had heard that those raised in Rockford do not like “outsiders.” When Oda Poole and Stan North killed Mark, sections of the community demonstrated and people came from elsewhere in their support. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was one such person. An employee of the county personally stated to me that she did not know why “outsiders” had to come to Rockford. Well, because “insiders” showed no concern. Mark was reported to be the fourth unarmed Black man killed by Oda Poole. It was business as usual.
Rev. Jackson saw Mark’s body — at least two bullet holes in his back. There were no wounds in the front of Mark’s body. This indicated that Mark was shot in the back. Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia remarked to the Rev. Jackson’s observation that he is not a physician. The insult to intelligence spoke volumes, and she continued being reelected because she ran for office unopposed.
The final investigation into the killing of Mark Anthony Barmore resulted in a finding that the police officers were wrong to enter the premises with their guns drawn.
There have been lawsuits. The Estate of Mark Anthony Barmore filed suit. Five years after Mark was killed, the City of Rockford settled that lawsuit for $1.1 million.
Lawsuits have been transferred back and forth from federal to state court, making it difficult to keep up with the status. At some point in 2014, officers Poole and North filed counter-claims against the Pastor of the Kingdom Authority Church, alleging defamation. Pastor Brown has stated that North and Poole are considered public officials as police officers and failed to produce evidence of the “actual malice” needed to prove their defamation claims.
Former police officer Stan North left the force on disability. Oda Poole was found unfit to return to duty, and was then terminated. He sued to get his job back and arbitration proceeded, leading into a filing with the circuit court. In December 2014, the local daily newspaper reported that Poole was reinstated to paid administrative leave. The news then went silent.
About three weeks ago, the civil case began that was filed by The Kingdom Authority Church on behalf of the children, staff and the Brown family (who own the church), for $4 million in damages against the City of Rockford. Oda Poole and Stan North did the unthinkable — they shot a man dead in the daycare center of that church, in the presence of about 10 children and staff. Barmore hid inside a boiler room. The officers did not evacuate the children. Instead, with their guns drawn, they opened the door of the boiler room. Stories of what happened next are inconsistent, but the result does not change — Stan North shot Mark dead in the church’s daycare center, in front of the children and staff.
Marissa Brown, the daughter of Rev. Brown, was previously charged with and found guilty of indirect contempt of court for failure to appear before the grand jury. The Appellate Court overturned that ruling. Winnebago County State’s Attorney, Joseph Bruscato, also charged Marissa with obstruction of justice when she reported being attacked in a washroom at school. He said it was a false report. An appeal was filed, and Bruscato decided to pursue a new trial. The false police report case against Marissa, filed in February 2010, is still pending as of March 17, 2016.
Marissa claims that she saw Mark come out of the closet with his hands up. There are opinions that SA Bruscato targeted Marissa Brown for personal charges in order to impugn her credibility in the investigation into Mark’s death, as well as subsequent civil lawsuits.
Having sincere concern and even compassion is called by some to be “empathy” but what I suggest is to go beyond the validation of empathy and stand in the shoes of others to understand their experience. Many parents and loved ones stand in those shoes. They want to know what the person experienced; what they thought in their last moments; what they felt. That is what I’m asking readers to do now. Think of the children who witnessed deliberate disrespect of a house of worship, and seeing a 23-year old man shot to death before their eyes.
As a parent or child, you believe that churches are safe places. The church with the day care center is well-known. It provides more than sermons and altar calls and actually helps the community in many ways. The day care center is affordable; the staff is wonderful.
Imagine being 5, 7 or 8-years old. It’s summer. School is out and you are in the church’s summer program. You have supervised, structured activities. Suddenly, without warning, a man runs in and goes into the boiler room closet. Two police officers run in, snatch open the door to the closet, and you hear 4 gunshots. You hear and smell the sounds of death. This is not a cartoon. It is real life. You see the blood. You smell the gunpowder. You smell the blood and other results of death.
You’ve been taught to respect police officers. They are the people you call to help when a crime is being or has been committed. The man who ran into the closet did nothing to you; he has no weapon, so why was he shot dead before your eyes? Who are the bad guys here? Can they do the same thing in your house? That is, can they come inside, ignore your parents, and shoot you dead?
The adults are there to protect you, but those two police officers did what they wanted, where they wanted. The staff’s authority was ripped from them. They were unable to protect you from the sounds, vision, and smells. There is nothing that removes those from your memory.
Now, imagine you are a parent. Your first thought might be that you should have been able to protect your child. Questions begin going through your mind like lit fire crackers. Why did the police not stop to talk to staff before going into the daycare center? Why did the police draw their guns in a house of worship when no one there had a weapon? Could the staff had talked Mark out of the boiler room closet? What would have happened if the bullets had hit a child – your child? What do you say to your child? Do you tell them that the police did the right thing because the man in the boiler room closet was a bad guy? Will that stop your child’s nightmares? Will that erase the images, the sounds, the smells? A feeling of helplessness comes over you.
Now imagine being a religious parent. Maybe you’ve taught your child that at times, bad people come to church to transform to good people. You teach them that all the bad a person has done is wiped away by God when they turn their heart around. Now, how do you counter the numerous challenges and representations going through the community that Mark was shot dead in church because he was a bad person?
Now imagine being a Black parent. This happened in a house of worship in Rockford, Illinois. It is not in Mississippi or another southern state where they bomb Black churches. It’s not the 1950’s when the KKK came into houses and killed Black men in the presence of their families, or kidnapped them where they were later found lynched. What do you say to your child? In the years to come they learn Black history, and are led to believe that the killing of Blacks by Whites in churches is a thing of the past — but it’s not — not for them. It happened in their lifetime.
About two weeks ago, the jury trial in the civil case filed by the church began. According to the latest census, the City of Rockford has a population of 149,123. It is 65.1 percent White; 20.5 percent Black; and 15.8 percent Latino. The jury pool consisted of 56 people with just two Blacks, neither of whom were chosen. The selected jury consisted of 7 women and 5 men – all White.
On March 25, 2016, that jury awarded your child $30,000 for reckless infliction of emotional distress.
“What the jury’s verdict shows is that the plaintiffs proved that officers North and Poole were reckless in their interactions with the staff, children and Mr. Barmore on Aug. 24, 2009, and in that recklessness they showed a conscious disregard for the safety of themselves and for others,” said Craig Sandberg, lawyer for the Brown family, which owns the Kingdom Authority International Ministries Church.
The pastor of the church stated that the jury diminished the experience of the children. Indeed, the cost of therapy can easily exceed $30K.
The jury held that staff member, Shelia Brown, was 40 percent to blame because she did not lock the doors to the church. It awarded her $15,000. Something that I term bigotvoyant was at play here, because the jury decided that Sheila Brown should have been clairvoyant and locked the doors of the church before she knew of the situation so she could have made it avoidable.
Attorneys for the City of Rockford talked about filing an appeal. However, the mayor of Rockford, Larry Morrissey, who is an attorney, said that the jury award was close to what the city had offered to settle the case.
In my opinion, the city and the jury, failed to stand in the shoes of the children and their parents. Stan North and Oda Poole did not only kill Mark Anthony Barmore – they killed the faith and trust of the children who were present. It’s not only what North and Poole did but WHERE they did it. The city council and the jury should have asked themselves how they would feel if the police ran into their place of worship with guns drawn? How would they feel if the police ignored their pastor and church staff, and without a second thought, killed an unarmed man in their presence? If they attend church, the next time they do and take their children, they should remember Kingdom Authority Church. What would they tell their children if it happened in their church?
Posted on 03/28/2016, in Cases, civil rights, Trial Videos, Uncategorized and tagged civil lawsuit, IL, Jesse Jackson, Joseph Bruscato, Kingdom Authority Church, Mark Anthony Barmore, Oda Poole, Rockford, Stan North. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.