Trial of Black Teen's Killer May Be Televised

Published September 10, 2009

The fate of a man who’s been called both heroic and heartless may play out on Oklahoma City TV.

Jerome Ersland, the middle-aged pharmacist who shot to death an unconscious Black teenager, is charged with first-degree murder. A district judge says she may allow his trial to be broadcast from the courtroom.

Ersland is captured on video chasing away a would-be robber who pulled out a gun on him at Reliable Discount Pharmacy where Ersland worked. The suspect’s would-be accomplice, Antwun Parker, 16, lay bleeding after Ersland had shot him in the head. But instead of calling for help to possibly save the victim, Ersland returns into the store and is shown pumping five more bullets into Parker’s motionless body.

A bitter divide has surfaced in the Oklahoma City community since the shooting, with some praising Ersland, 57, for his bravery. Conservative radio celebrated Ersland’s right to defend himself, in the aftermath of the May 19 incident. Supporters also reportedly sent money to Ersland, whose bail was paid for him following his arrest. He even returned to his job at the same pharmacist’s counter from which he took the pistol that killed Parker.

Meanwhile, the NAACP praised the prosecutor’s decision to charge Ersland with pre-meditated murder. Parker’s family and their community supporters say there was no justification for Ersland’s additional five bullets, once the youth had been rendered harmless.

Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure indicated in court last week that would likely allow much of Ersland’s trial to be shown on TV. But she hesitated on making a definite ruling.

“I’m still struggling with that,” she said.

A decision is expected on Nov. 5.

The shooting of Parker, whose mother says he’d recently fallen in with the wrong crowd, is one of multiple highly disputed killings of Black men in 2009. New York policeman Omar Edwards died in May when he was mistaken for a criminal and shot by a fellow cop, while the year began with Oscar Grant’s death in Oakland at the hands of police.

Written by Eddie B. Allen Jr.

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