This documentary is about four young men, one Hispanic, Danny Reyes age 21, and three African Americans, Jarmaine Grant age 24, Rayshawn Brown age 21, and Keshon Moore age 22. They all grew up in the inner cities of New York. They were basketball players who aspired to play on the college and professional level. In the spring of 1998, they were on their way to North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in order to attend a basketball showcase/tryout.
The men traveled together in a van and while on the New Jersey Turnpike, they were pulled over by a state trooper vehicle. The men were unarmed and assumed this was a routine traffic stop. The driver, Keshon, pulled over south of exit 8. Keshon thought the car was in park but it was actually in reverse, and the car backed into the police cruiser. An officer walked up to the front passenger window and broke the window with his baton. After that, the officer put his gun through the window and fired 13 shots, changing the young men’s lives forever. The car rolled into traffic while police continued shooting at them and was hit by another car. The car finally came to a stop in a ditch. The men were arrested but released to paramedics for treatment. Keshon was the only occupant of the car who was not shot. He received a ticket for speeding and for driving with a revoked license. He was not charged for any crimes against the troopers. Danny was shot 6 times. Jermaine and Rayshawn were shot several times as well. Because of the incident, they were never able to fulfill their basketball dreams.
The incident as portrayed in the media was that after the van had been stopped for speeding at 74 mph, a shootout occurred between the men and the officers after the men had attempted to run the trooper car over. Also reported was that the trooper car was smashed due to the impact. Initially, David Ironman served as the defense attorney. As the case received national attention, David invited Johnny Cochran as co-counsel and permitted him to take the lead. Investigation into the incident revealed the shots into the car didn’t add up to what was reported. The trooper car was examined as well. It had sustained no gun shots. The examination of the front bumper revealed that it had sustained impact between 3 to 5 miles per hour. Also, there had been no radar gun mounted on the dash of the trooper vehicle and no speed recording of the men’s car had been made.
Additional research of the New Jersey police department revealed that 90-100% of troopers stopped only Hispanics and African Americans. Internal research by NJ state police revealed the same statistics and also found that officers falsified reports of stopping white drivers. This incident also resulted in an anti-racial profiling protest led by Rev. Al Sharpton.
The Grand Jury’s investigation revealed that the men’s story was true and that the officer’s shots were unprovoked. The troopers, James Kenna and John Hogan, were indicted for falsifying records. The young men filed a civil lawsuit against the state of New Jersey, alleging racial profiling. The Grand Jury’s decision in the case resulted in one count of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault for each officer. As a result of the incident, the state of New Jersey issued a mandate requiring mounted radar guns on all state trooper vehicles as well as cameras in order to record every traffic stop.
The men settled their civil case for what was a record at that time, $12.9 million. They were informed that the criminal case would continue and that they would have their day in court. That didn’t happen. The judge dismissed all the serious charges and the officers were offered the opportunity to plead guilty to obstruction of justice. They also lost their jobs in law enforcement and were fined $280. The 4 Chosen believed that justice was not served because the officers didn’t serve any time.
The errors that stand out to me were that the two officers falsified the report related to the incident and also gave false statement as to what actually happened. What also struck me was that officers made it a practice to racially profile minorities and falsify reports. The people who are supposed to protect and serve were the ones doing the harm that almost took the lives of four young men.
~Morine Etienne, L’15~
Susan Catterall, Esq., Class Advisor