Sharpton calls for congressional inquiry into police shooting policies

By ERRIN HAINES, Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA- The Rev. Al Sharpton called for a congressional probe of police shooting policies as he joined local activists Sunday outside the home of an elderly woman killed by narcotics police officers who burst into her home.

The New York civil rights leader said the death of Kathryn Johnston - along with the death of 23-year-old groom-to-be Sean Bell, who was shot by police on his wedding day outside a New York City strip club - is an example of "a new sense of police recklessness" sweeping the country.

"Something stinks in this case," he said. "In fact, it smelled so bad that I smelled it in New York."

Sharpton called for the incoming Congress to address the issue.

"There seems to be a new spirit in law enforcement that they can become the judge, jury and executioner of the law on the scene," Sharpton said.

"Police apprehend suspects; they don't kill them," Sharpton said. "This cannot be tolerated in a civilized society."

Johnston - described as 92 by her family but 88 by the medical examiner - lived in fear in the crime-ridden Vine City neighborhood of northwest Atlanta.

On the night of Nov. 21, a group of plainclothes officers burst in, searching for drugs. They had obtained a "no-knock" warrant, saying an informant bought drugs at the house.

Johnston opened fire with a pistol, wounding three officers before she was shot to death.

The informant later denied buying drugs at Johnston's home and said police told him to lie about the incident, Police Chief Richard Pennington said. Pennington said the informant is in protective custody and is a key part of the FBI-led investigation into the shootout.

In the New York case, Bell and his friends were leaving his bachelor party on Nov. 25 when a group of undercover police fired 50 shots at their car. Police have said that Bell's vehicle hit one officer and an unmarked police car, and that officers apparently thought one of Bell's companions was about to get to a gun.

Associated PressCopyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Back to previous page