Monday, October 28, 2013

Looking for justice in Columbia Missouri

Photograph by Megan Donohue of the Columbia Missourian
“It’s like the people here are sleepwalking,” Harold Warren, Sr. said as he clutched the stirring wheel of his car as if to keep from shaking.  “We have to fight for our civil rights.
Warren was the first black person elected to serve on Columbia, Missouri’s City Council.  It took more than 30 years for residents to elect another black person.  Almeta Crayton was the first black woman to serve on the city council
Crayton died last week at 53.
“I tell people it’s sad that I was the first black person elected to the council,” Warren says. “Not much has changed since then.”
He parked in front of the Wendy’s near the Columbia Mall. Memories of when it first opened came to mind as I reflected on the massive growth since I left 25 years ago. So much has changed. Some things are the same.
Warren then told me the story of Brandon Coleman’s death.  Coleman, a 25-year-old groundskeeper at the University of Missouri, was killed on May 19 following a confrontation over an interracial relationship.  No arrest was ever made and, last week, Boone County prosecutor Dan Knight declared the shooting “legally justified” and that no charges would be filed.
Warren says an argument began when Broadus arrived at the house to see his girlfriend.  The girl’s father came to the door holding a machete and threatened to use it if Broadus refused to leave.
“He (Broadus) had a gun but he didn’t pull it out,” Warren claims.
Warren says the son of the man arguing with Broadus opened fire on Broadus with a 12-gauge shotgun. Josiah Williams, a witness at the scene, told a reporter with the Columbia Daily Tribune he heard three quick gunshots, a pause and then a fourth gunshot.  Williams said he went outside and overheard a man telling neighbors he looked out the window to see his father being held at gunpoint and started shooting.
Williams told the Tribune he could see Coleman rolling on the ground in pain. He said he called 911 four times but never spoke to a dispatcher because the phone continued to ring or he was placed on hold. He estimated it took 25 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
Winona Coleman-Broadus, Brandon’s mother, claims racial prejudice played a role in the decision not to file charges. Coleman-Broadus has reached out to the U.S. Justice Department for help.
Coleman-Broadus said witnesses claim her son did not fire a weapon at the person who shot. Coleman-Broadus believes authorities did not act fast enough to save her son’s life.
“I don’t understand why trained, professional people could not have tried to stop bleeding, start CPR and reassured and comforted him.  They could have at least allowed my son to die in a humane fashion rather than like a damn animal because he is not an animal.  He was a good kid who made some bad choices,” Coleman-Broadus told reporters with KRCG-TV.
Witnesses told Coleman-Broadus that police did nothing to save her son’s life while they waited 30 minutes for an ambulance to make the five minutes trip to the crime scene. Columbia police refused to respond to what witnesses told family members.
The protest of black residents has fallen on deaf ears.  Coleman-Broadus and fewer than 50 gathered on the corner of Providence and Broadway to plead for justice. Their signs and tears reflect the lack of change in community long divided along the broad line that keeps blacks on the other side. For those begging for a day in court, there is no daylight – just darkness.
Such is life in a city that has only elected two blacks to the city council.
“It’s been this way for so long they don’t know how to act another way,” Warren said.
No justice, no peace.  Welcome home.


  1. I am so sorry for your loss..... I agree with everything you have said...

    Ale' Cooper

  2. I am filled with grief on so many levels. Keep writing, please.