If a Cop Kills My Son

A Vow Born of Rage and Sorrow

I stuck to my declaration: "Any police officer [who] kills my son; I'm taking him out because I'm just as good as dead!"

Colmes interjected: "But you're talking about taking justice in your own hands. . . . "

"Yes!" I emphasized. "[The cop] took justice in [his] own hands. There has to be some kind of response, Alan. There are . . . grieving mothers and fathers. . . . I come from a totally different culture. My culture tells me 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' You kill my son and you want to say that he had some gun in his hand when he didn't have one! I am dead. You guys are gonna write my story for me. I am coming after that police officer."

Dunleavy invoked an argument popular with Giuliani conservatives and far-right talking heads. "I think you should take your activism down to Washington, where the Washington cops have a frightening record [of killing black men]," he said. (If Dunleavy was suggesting that I tolerated black cops killing black people, he was sadly mistaken.)

"I [live] in New York," I reminded him. Dunleavy pressed the point, hinting that the civil libertarian's theory—that police brutality would be almost nonexistent if black cops patrolled mostly black neighborhoods—does not work. "It just so happens the majority of Washington cops are black. . . . ," he said.

But my beef is with Giuliani's terror squad. "Any cop in this city, black or white, who attacks and brutalizes people . . . should be punished. . . . ," I said.

"But you're talking about vigilante justice, Peter," said Colmes. "You're talking about going after them yourself." I wanted to make it clear that my fight with the cop who killed my son would be personal. If there were four cops, like in the case of Amadou Diallo, I'd go after them all—but I wouldn't be avenging every alleged police killing.

"I'm speaking about me!" I explained. "I'm speaking about what would happen to me if a white police officer, a black police officer, a Latino police officer, kills my son. I'm gone. I'm dead!"

The liberal Colmes attempted to link my views to those of some of the radical protesters at Patrick Dorismond's funeral who, according to Colmes, advocated killing Andrew Giuliani. " . . . I think a sign at this rally threatening Giuliani's son [was] way out of line," he declared. "It was really inappropriate."

"There is something called righteous indignation," I asserted. "People are angry! The only thing that they have . . . is freedom of speech, regardless of whether . . . they are fighting words."

Dunleavy interjected: "Is that what you call righteous indignation? You're talking about righteous indignation when you talk about killing the mayor's son? Are you out of your freaking mind?"

" . . . The mayor has killed the sons and daughters of African Americans in this city," I retorted. "He has sanctioned it! And if people feel that they have to send a message back to him . . . let them do that." (In no way was I calling for the life of the Pharoah's first-born son.)

"Oh, come on, for God's sake," Dunleavy fumed. "You better stop taking those stupid pills you've been taking."

Pills? Much like the undercover cops who assumed Patrick Dorismond was a pothead, Steve Dunleavy was not above inferring that I might be a drug abuser who popped pills. News flash, Steve: I don't need pills. I get high on black rage, which makes African American fathers like me consider homicide when Giuliani justice is not enuf.

Last month, on the second anniversary of my brother's death, Little Peter's mother summoned me to their home. I told Paula that if she was going to talk to me about another one of her "Stephen King nightmares," I didn't want to hear it. "It's about Peter!" she snapped. "No dream could predict what I am about to do to your son." I raced over to the apartment. Little Peter, who is always at the door to greet me, remained in a back room. Paula was sitting on a chair in the kitchen gritting her teeth, trying to calm her erupting nerves.

"His pants is hanging off his ass these days, and he's not listening to me!" she complained. "Take him!" she offered. "Because if the cops don't kill Peter for looking like a thug, I will." I called Little Peter from his hiding place, rapped him a couple of times in the back of his head ("Kid, what wuz you thinkin'?"), and thrust a $10 bill in his hand.

"What's that for?" he asked, still wincing from the thumps.

"This," I said, staring at Grandma Alice's beautiful big-eye boy, "ensures that both of us will live."

41 Bullets and Counting...: The Voice archive on NYPD brutality.

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