A pair of encounters the past two weeks between law enforcement and black women — one that ended in death, the other in a controversial arrest — mushroomed into civil rights battles during emotional overlapping press conferences on Tuesday.
First, Dyma Loving, arrested after calling the police about a man who pointed a shotgun at her, stood at the spot of her arrest and said she was filing a civil rights lawsuit and a complaint Tuesday with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office demanding charges be filed against the officer who arrested her.
Then, standing outside a Miami-Dade police substation, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said the family of Latasha Walton had written the U.S. Attorney General demanding an investigation by the Department of Justice into her shooting death inside her white BMW by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper.
As Crump made his announcement under a tent in driving rain, surrounded by local activists and members of South Florida’s NAACP, Walton’s sister, Allison Wright, crumpled to the ground.
“Oh my God, why? Why would you do this to my sister,” she cried.
The emotional day came on the heels of separate encounters between the women and local law enforcement that were captured on video and elicited an outcry in the community and beyond.
The first of the two confrontations happened on March 5, when Loving, 26, and her best friend, Adrianna Green, 22, called police to say that Greene’s neighbor, Frank Tumm, had called them “hookers,” spouted racial epithets and pointed a shotgun at them.
Police said when they initially spoke to Tumm, 50, he refused to leave his yard and said he didn’t have a weapon. A witness supported his claim, but later changed his story. Tumm was not initially arrested. After questioning Greene and Loving, Miami-Dade Police Officer Alejandro Giraldo arrested her for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence.
But a video taken by Greene and another one released a week later from a police body camera indicate that Giraldo was aggressive with the women from the get-go, walking up to them and asking who called Tumm a “f---ot.” As Loving became more animated and said she needed to contact her children, Giraldo told her: “I don’t like the tone of your voice” and “you need to chill out or you’re going to be arrested.”
Then, when she questioned the police about his questioning of her, three officers pushed Loving into a chain-link fence, pulled her to the ground and handcuffed her.
Standing in the rain outside the home where she was arrested two weeks ago, Loving said Tuesday that she’s now seeing a psychiatrist and suffers from horrific nightmares.
“He didn’t treat me like a human at all. It hurts me to the core,” she said. “I want charges pressed immediately against the officer that put his hands on me. No one pretty much did their job in the right way.”
Giraldo was suspended by Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez almost immediately after Greene’s cellphone video began circulating on social media. And Tumm was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon a week later, the same day the police video camera footage became public.
On March 12, two weeks after Loving’s confrontation with police, Latasha Walton, a mother of two, was shot dead by Florida Highway Patrol trooper Ronald Melendez-Bonilla. The trooper fired into her car after she refused orders to stop near the entrance of the Golden Glades Park & Ride.
Video taken by a bystander shows Walton’s white BMW slowly moving on the roadway and Melendez-Bonilla firing his weapon twice, once before he stumbles as he’s walking backwards and again as he appears to trip on a median and a dip in the roadway.
Walton’s brother, Alfonso Wright, said his sister was in the vehicle with her boyfriend and that the Pompano Beach resident was in Miami visiting friends for dinner when she was shot. FHP Spokesman Alejandro Camacho said Walton was driving erratically and was stopped for a traffic violation. The department has never explained the type of violation.
Tuesday, Crump fired off a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr saying the trooper used “unnecessary and unjustifiable lethal force” and asked for a “full, fair and complete investigation by the Department of Justice. Nothing less will do.”
Noting that Walton was killed over a traffic offense, the attorney said, “That is not a cause to issue a death sentence.”
Said Walton’s sister, Allison Wright: “What this officer has done has broken me, her [my sister’s] two children, our entire family. Why must you use excessive force for a traffic stop? Why would you shoot my sister down like a dog in the street? We will never heal from this.”