The shooting death of a 73-year-old Black husband and father of five by a northern Louisiana police officer has ignited outrage among a Black community that’s demanding an external investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killing.
The shooting of Bernard Monroe in front of his home in February is drawing attention from way beyond the tiny town of Homer, which is about 45 miles north or Shreveport, La.
On Friday, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who led some 20,000 demonstrators through the town of Jena, La., in 2007 to protest the seemingly harsh prosecution of six Black youths accused of beating a White classmate, was back in the state. About 150 marchers chanted "No justice, no peace!" and "We shall overcome!" They met up at a local park and were joined by several hundred others.
"To shoot an unarmed, innocent man and put him on trial is a disgrace," Sharpton told the crowd. "We didn't come to the city to start trouble. We came to the city to stop trouble. Let [police] explain why they broke the peace and took the life of this innocent man."
Sharpton is calling for a thorough investigation of the killing. The FBI and state police are investigating.
"We're going to keep coming to Homer until we get justice," Sharpton said.
Monroe, who had lost his vocal box to cancer, was in his front yard hosting a barbecue when two Homer Police officers drove up. What happened next is in dispute.
According to the police department, Officer Tim Cox and another officer, whose identity was not revealed, chased Monroe's son, Shaun, 38, from a suspected drug deal blocks away to his father's house. Witnesses, however, say that Monroe’s son was talking to his sister-in-law in a truck in front of the house when the officers arrived. Both sides agree that Shaun Monroe drove up the driveway and went into the house. Two White police officers followed him, and within minutes, he ran back outside, chased by an officer who Tasered him in the front yard. Police said that the senior Monroe approached officers with a gun drawn, and that Cox, who was still inside the house, shot at him through a screen door. Monroe slumped to the ground.
Neither side contends that Monroe fired a weapon, and family and friends of the victim say he was holding a sports water bottle and accuse police of planting a pistol next to his body.
"Mr. Ben didn't have a gun," said 32-year-old neighbor Marcus Frazier, who was there that day. "I saw that other officer pick up the gun from out of a chair on the porch and put it by him."
Police have not arrested Shaun Monroe on any charges.
The department has declined to release an autopsy report, and state police are testing the gun found near Monroe for DNA. The state police will pass their findings along to District Attorney Jonathan Stewart, who would decide whether to file charges.