The sister of Juston Root, the man shot and killed by six law enforcement officers in a three-second hail of gunfire last February in Brookline, became the latest grieving relative to add her voice on Friday to a growing chorus of local survivors crusading against police brutality.
“We are all together in our pain, because we have lost someone we love to police violence,” Jennifer Root Bannon said in front of the State House at a podium set before a bank of news cameras.
The gathering was equal parts call to action and recitation of demands, as well as an invitation to march next week in solidarity with all victims of police violence, from George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Anthony Huber in Kenosha, to Juston Root, Terrence Coleman, and Usaamah Rahim here in Boston.
The Root family, who is white, were flanked by people of color, who statistics show are disproportionately likely to be killed by police. Root Bannon stood with two mothers, Rahima Rahim and Hope Coleman, whose Black sons were killed by Massachusetts law enforcement, four months apart in 2016.
Rahim and Coleman have been pleading for justice ever since. “Nothing’s been done,” Coleman said, “Too much has gone unsaid and undone for too long.”
Coleman’s 31-year-old son, Terrence, was shot twice in the stomach by a Boston Police officer on Oct. 30, 2016. Coleman had called an ambulance because her son was in the midst of a mental health crisis.
“I regret dialing 911,” Coleman said. “I called an ambulance, but I ended up killing my baby.”
The officer told investigators Terrence Coleman had lunged at police and two emergency medical technicians with a knife, and the EMTs credited the officer for saving their lives.
Under the umbrella of Mass Action Against Police Brutality, Coleman, Rahim, and Root Bannon united on Friday. “It’s a PSA for the Governor and the community,” organizer Brock Satter said. He called the gathering of survivors “the club you never want to be in.”
Juston Root’s family demands Norfolk DA reopen his case: 5 @bostonpolice— Tonya Alanez (@talanez) September 4, 2020
Officers & 1 @MassStatePolice Trooper shot Root 31 times. Justified killing, DA says. All 6 have testified that they did not see Juston brandish a gun before firing. @BostonGlobe pic.twitter.com/6GCXQYoSjE
The event was also a precursor and an invitation to a Sept. 9 march that will set off from the State House at 5 p.m.
The current protest movement, Satter said, has been the only thing “to move the meter” toward accountability and reforms. “We need to maintain our presence in the streets,” he said.
Rahima Rahim, who is Muslim, said her 26-year-old son was a victim of “double jeopardy,” profiled because of his race and his religion.
Usaamah Rahim, an alleged terror suspect, was shot three times by a Boston Police officer and an FBI agent.
It was early, about 7 a.m. on June 2, 2016 in Roslindale. Usaamah Rahim was waiting at a bus stop on his way to work, talking on his cellphone with his father when he was surrounded by undercover officers and agents, Rahim’s mother said.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said the shooting by members of an anti-terror squad was justified because Rahim aggressively came at investigators with a military-style knife.
“They’re slaughtering our men, and if they’re not slaughtering them, they’re imprisoning them,” Rahim said. “We’re demanding that all the cases be reopened, all of the cases, all of the cases.”
Calling for @bostonpolice accountability, father & sister of Juston Root ... He was into word play, sister said. Would add an “e” to the end of his 1st name for “Justone.” He believed we were all just one, she said... @BostonGlobehttps://t.co/N6j5xoe6oh pic.twitter.com/fy5Nvw9SZz— Tonya Alanez (@talanez) September 4, 2020
Root’s killing on Feb. 7 in a barrage of 31 gunshots fired by five Boston police officers and one Massachusetts State Trooper was determined to be justified by Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey, also for the alleged reason of brandishing a weapon.
Earlier that day, Root, a 41-year-old Mattapan man with a long history of mental illness, had pointed a fake gun at an officer near Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He then led police on a chase to a Chestnut Hill shopping center where he was shot dead.
All six shooters have since testified that they did not see Root with a gun at the scene of the fatal shooting, according to a civil lawsuit filed by the Root family.
“We want the police to be held accountable, and for everyone’s life to be respected and valued; as it should be,” Root Bannon said Friday in her remarks in front of the State House.
The family is calling for an immediate independent investigation.
“I am not going to stop until it is reopened,” Root Bannon said. “And these families deserve to have their cases reopened too. Enough is enough.”
Tonya Alanez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @talanez.