18 May 2007

Ron Pettaway Was Reared in an Impressive African-American Family

This morning, I spoke with Army Sergeant First Class Roy Pettaway, father of Roy (21), Cruz (18), and the late Ron Pettaway, and I also spoke with Sergeant Pettaway's wife, Shalonda Pettaway. It grieves me deeply that such a beautiful and upstanding Black American family has been the victim of such an intentional tragedy as the police execution of Ron on April 15, when police also shot Ron's brother Roy in the back.

The late Ron Pettaway came from an impressive family. Sergeant Roy Pettaway's youngest son, Cruz, was his brothers' designated driver on the night when Ron was killed by police at the Frozen Palace bar. Cruz is eighteen years old, a high school senior and "has always been an "A" student, 9th, 10, 11th, 12th grade. Cruz will graduate from Banneker High School in College Park, Georgia on May 25th with a 4.0 average. Cruz is a member of the National Honor Society, and the Future Business Leaders of America," said Shalonda Pettaway, Cruz' step-mother.

Cruz "is very special, very likable," says his father. "All of his teachers love him. He's going to do great things in the world. He wants to go to Georgia Tech University. He has been accepted at DeVry University. He has applied for several engineering scholarships and has received a $1,500 scholarship from. He gets a Hope Scholarship based on his GPA. He plans to be a computer engineer," said Mrs. Pettaway.

If Cruz has accomplished much in his first 18 years, it cannot be a mere coincidence that his father, Sergeant First Class Roy Pettaway, is a man with with 29 years of service to his country in the US Army , while his grandfather, the Rev. Roy Pettaway, is a minister in a Florida Church. Ron Pettaway, who was killed by police, was a member of the Powder Sprints Business Association and engaged to be married to his business partner, Lisa Sayer.

When I hear the details of a loving and highly functional Black family losing a member to an inexplicable act of the police, this is what grieves and angers me most: If Blacks like the Sergeant Roy Pettaway family are not safe from police violence, then who is safe?

17 May 2007

Sergeant Roy Pettaway Joins Afrosphere, Seeks Justice in the Police Execution of His Son Ron.

Cross-posted at the Francis L. Holland Blog.

“I’m willing to stand up and make change,” says Army Sergeant First Class Roy Pettaway, the deceased's father.

After 29 years in the military, Mr. Roy Pettaway is a lifetime military man, a Sergeant First Class who joined the US Army in 1978, and is stationed at Fort Gordon, in Augusta, Georgia. His father is the Rev. Roy Pettaway, a pastor at church in Milton, Florida.

On April 15 of this year, when two of Sergeant Pettaway’s sons, Ron and Roy, wanted to visit an Atlanta bar, Sergeant Pettaway asked his younger son, Cruz, to be their designated driver, chauffeuring Ron and Roy to the Frozen Palace bar.

Before they left that evening, Sergeant Pettaway’s son Ron, who was just six days shy of his twenty-eight birthday, looked into his father’s eyes and said, “God has a special job for you to do.” That was the last time that Sergeant Pettaway saw his son alive. Just minutes later, Fulton County police officers took Ron Pettaway outside the Frozen Palace Bar and shot him in the a back of the head, also shooting Roy (21) in the back when he tried to help his brother.

Now, Sergeant Roy Pettaway is speaking out and demanding justice. “My sons didn’t wear baggy pants,” says Sergeant Pettaway. “They had nice clean haircuts, but because they are Black men people saw them as a threat.” “I just want to find the facts. I want justice. The authorities haven’t said anything. Not even, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

In the days after the execution of Ron Pettaway, Francis L. Holland, a blogger from national group of Black bloggers called the Afrosphere, set up a Ron Pettaway Justice March blog to share information with Black people nationally about a march and funeral organized by the deceased family. Today, Sergeant Pettaway contacted Mr. Holland from Atlanta and said he wants to start blogging himself, to share information with the entire world and begin organizing a response to the excess use of police force that took his son’s life and that takes the lives of other Blacks daily.

“We have to come together and we have to join together,” says Sergeant Pettaway. “My son Roy, he lost his life. He had no weapons, no knife. My son Roy was shot down. “He was fun, cheerful, caring man. He would help anyone, he helped to take care of his mother. He and Lisa (Sayer) were engaged to be married. They had started a business together.” It’s been 32 days now, and the authorities have not said one word to my family,” about results of an investigation.

When you lose a son, “Your life is completely different,” says Sergeant Pettaway. “A piece of you has just been wiped out. It’s torn us apart, it hurts so much. And we just wait for an answer, a word or anything. They killed my son, but the law is protecting the police. Those police officers are on administrative leave with pay. They go home every night. If that were me or you right now who shot one man in the back of the head and another man in the back.”

Francis L. Holland and Sargeant Pettaway will now become co-administrators of the Ron Pettaway March blog, which in turn is a member of the Afrosphere’s Black Accused Support Groups blogs, guided by Eddie G. Griffin (BASG). “The Black Accused Support Groups is a national group of Black families, friends, co-workers and community members of Black people, sharing information and demanding equality of justice from the American criminal and civil (in)justice systems,” said Attorney Holland.

Sergeant Pettaway says there are his goals as well. “I want to find out what other families have done, what has happened in other families’ cases. We need to find out whether there is an ongoing investigation or whether these cases have just been pushed to the side. If we have officers shooting members of the public and the officers are wrong, then that needs to be addressed. It doesn’t matter if you are Black, white, Chinese or Hispanic. When we come together, we can make change. I’m willing to stand up and make change.”

At least four founding members of the Afrosphere blogs are Black lawyers, including the bloggers at the Francis L. Holland Blog, the Field Negro blog and the Make it Plain blog. Although they do not offer legal representation through the Afrosphere, they use their legal talents and training to orient the public through their blogs.

Although Sergeant Pettaway is angry, he says he wants justice, not vengeance. “I want everyone to love each other and to treat each other equally. We need justice in America and we need the legal system changed.”

Mr. Pettaway says that his superiors and his peers in the military have supported him and he notes that the Powder Springs Business Association of which his son was a member has started Ron Pettaway website to lend support to the Pettaway family.

“They shot down two unarmed men, not one but two,” said Sergeant Pettaway. “And they shot them in the back. How long does it take to figure this out? The police had the guns, they had the weapons and they shot my two unarmed sons from behind. That’s not a dark place. He knew my son was unarmed. The world is waiting for some answers.”