Right to Left. NYC Council member Inez Barron, NYS Assembly member Charles Barron, Ms. Arrie Spencer, Santana’s mother, Tyrik Washington and Kevin McCall ( NAN). Photo-Eulene Innis.
People power—the vigorous protests–led to the NYPD’s quick firing of a sergeant, Ritchard Blake, 40, on August 17, 2018, for the shooting of 21 years old Thavon Santana on July 22. Supporters of the victim called Blake’s actions “a terrible crime,” during a weekend news conference called by the family and elected officials in front of Brookdale Hospital Medical Center in Brownsville where the Santana is hospitalized.
That terrible crime took place about 5:00 a.m. in Brownsville, Brooklyn, in a neighborhood where the loud sound of overhead trains mingling with empty streets would have concealed the shameful deed had it not been for a nearby camera. According to police sources, Santana knows Blake’s girlfriend and he and the officer used to socialize. The two men had a falling out –reportedly it may have been over the woman– and early that morning, as Blake was walking to his car on Lavonia Avenue there was an encounter which led to an argument. As they argued, Blake drew his gun, fired twice, striking Santana in the chin.
Sergeant Blake lied to detectives about the details of the incident, reporting that he was being robbed. Video from a nearby camera revealed that Santana never tried to rob Blake as he had stated; instead, Blake was staging a cover-up. Elected officials and community activist gathered to express their dissatisfaction with the progress of the case at the press conference. The termination of Blake will not suffice, several said. Assemblyman Charles Barron said: “We want to say emphatically, that this family was violated. Sergeant Blake has a sordid history and should not have been on the force. We demand an arrest, not just termination; an indictment and a conviction should follow. He tried to kill an unarmed man who did not commit a crime. He had no weapon. This mother has suffered a lot and we are taking it to the end. We will not be placated by a firing.”
“My son Thavon is inside the hospital hurting,” the victim’s mother, Arrie Spencer said. “We are here every day, two to three times a day. Family members are here on shifts throughout the day. We are saddened, hurting. I spoke to Thavon today and told him that I was coming down to this Press Conference. At this time he is unable to speak but I told him I will speak for him. We are unable to speak now because we have to speak to the District Attorney, but will at a later time.”
There to show support to the family were, in addition to Charles Barron: City council member Inez Barron; Kevin McCall of National Action Network; Chris Banks of East New York United Concerned Citizens; and, Tyrik Washington of Operation Power.
Indeed had these leaders not quickly rallied in support of the victim and his family, with several protests and news conference, it’s unlikely that Blake would have been so quickly dismissed from the force. After all, a video showed Officer Daniel Pantaleo choking Eric Garner to death on July 17, 2014. Pantaleo is still on the NYPD and it was only last month, four later, that he was brought up on departmental charges.
The City had claimed it didn’t want to compromise an investigation and possible action by the Justice Department before taking action against Pantaleo. The quick firing of Blake proves that reasoning was a public relations gimmick.