The Connecticut branch of the NAACP is urging the U.S. Justice Department to review the actions of a former Hartford police officer who was acquitted by an all-White jury last week of shooting to death an 18-year-old Black man.
Jashon Bryant’s family wept openly in court and bolted from the courtroom last Tuesday after the verdict was read, freeing Officer Robert Lawlor, according to The Hartford Courant newspaper.
"A policeman has license to kill Black people in our neighborhood and get away with it," Keith Thomas, Bryant's father, said outside courtroom. "It was my son who got bullets put into him. [The officer] should be going to prison."
Immediately after the verdict, Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez called for calm in the city. Area churches also invited people to join them in prayer.
“We are closing a difficult chapter for our City. Families have been devastated but we must come together today as one city, one Hartford,” Perez said in a statement.
NAACP State Conference President Scot X. Esdaile is calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to get involved in the case.
“The NAACP, the family of Jashon Bryant, and many in the community believe this was a flawed, racially biased process,” Esdaile said. “People have commented that this case put the community on trial, not a former police officer who shot and killed an unarmed young man. We’re asking the Justice Department to review this case and ensure that justice was served.
In May 2005, Lawlor shot Bryant to death as he was driving in a car with a friend. Lawlor, who was working with an FBI agent at the time, said he believed Bryant had a gun and that he was about to shoot the agent. It was one day before Bryant’s birthday.
“He just got away with killing my son again,” Bryant’s mother, Cynthia, said. “He killed him two times.”
“I did nothing wrong,” Lawlor, an 18-year veteran of the force said outside the courthouse.
His attorneys argued that Lawlor, who has since retired, was merely trying to protect the residents of Hartford.