Jamaican US army veteran recounts act of police brutality

A Jamaican man living in the United States (US) who was beaten by police officers at his daughter’s graduation in 2016 is adding his voice to the throng of protesters across North America agitating for racial justice following the recent murder of George Floyd.

Randall King, 55, shared in an interview with the Jamaica Observer last week that the viral images of Floyd handcuffed and pinned to the ground with the knee of Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin on his neck, triggered memories of his own encounter with the police four years ago.

“It is distressing and it brings back my experience all over again. Every time there is an incident of police brutality, death or unjust incarceration, I have nervous attacks,” said King.

He recounted that on the day of his daughter’s high school graduation after he and other family members were already seated by attending ushers, he went to use the washroom when a woman security guard accused him of trespassing.

“The female officer who first interacted with me said that I was not supposed to be sitting where I was and that I should leave. When I tried to explain to her that I was already seated, she said that I was standing too close to her and that she was afraid because I am a black man, and that someone should call the police,” King stated.

He related the experience to another recent incident of racial injustice, this time in New York where a white woman threatened to call police on a black man who was bird watching in Central Park.

“That is literally how my experience was triggered,” King said.

But unlike Floyd, who was later pronounced dead at hospital with an autopsy report showing asphyxiation as the cause of death, King walked away with life and a “shattered wrist”.

“Eventually I was surrounded by police officers and it turned into me being slammed up against the wall. They shattered my left wrist which is now healed up but I have no movement in my left wrist and only 50 per cent use of my left hand as a result of that assault. I had to go through major surgery to put it all back together again,” he added.

To this day, the Mandeville-born said he has not received justice for the attack and is now awaiting the outcome of a civil suit filed against the officer who assaulted him, as well as the University of Central Florida and the Orange County Public School District, the entities responsible for security arrangements at the graduation.

“They filed charges against me three weeks after we initiated our charges and the charges were resisting arrest without violence and trespassing, of which I have defended and won. They have yet to admit to any wrong because if they do they are going to have to pay me,” the man stated.

In the meantime, King has used his experience to fuel his work with the youth in Florida through his non-profit organisation, the Talented Teen Club, that he runs with his wife, who is also Jamaican.

“My wife and I are blessed with so much and we wanted to give back to our communities, to people of colour and the youth in general because many of them are lost and are in need of direction. We have so many youth who are coming from traumatic environments,” King said.

He explained that many of the youth who are served by his non-profit entity are Jamaican children who are coming from households where they were abused.

“We have a lot of youth coming from Jamaica who have been sexually abused. This is a huge problem in Jamaica. A lot of those youth are being shipped to the United States because the parents or guardians think that if they remove them from Jamaica then the problem will go away,” he added. “We have a counsellor on staff and I am also a pastor so we do a lot of work counselling the youth and we try to do whatever we can to help them along.”

Along with his ministry and non-profit work, King is also a track and field athletics coach who has trained Jamaican athletes recruited by schools in the Florida, and has also served in the US military.

With so many accolades of service to his name, King challenged the notion that money and social status can shield people of colour in the United States from the vestiges of racism.

“I am a 20-year military veteran with three college degrees and I was still attacked because of the colour of my skin. You have black Americans who because they are successful, they say ‘well I have made it so it can’t be that bad’.

“But they have bought into a lie. I have a job, I have the money and I still was on the floor. At the end of the day, we are still seen as Negroes,” said King.

He also juxtaposed his experience in the US with is living in Jamaica, naming classism and corruption as the main forms of injustice here on the island.

“Because of my class I wouldn’t have that experience in Jamaica. We don’t have a race problem in Jamaica; we have a class problem in Jamaica,” King said. “If I am being arrested unjustly in Jamaica and I have enough money in my pocket, I am going home. But if I don’t have any money I am going to jail. In the United States, it doesn’t matter how much money I have. If the police want to arrest me and beat me up, they will,” he stated.

But in spite of Jamaica’s shortcomings, King said he and his wife are considering moving back to their homeland.

“We are strongly thinking of either moving back home or relocating to the UK. I don’t know if we will actually do it because we are so entrenched in our community and what we do, but given everything that is going on here in the United States, we want to spend more time in Jamaica, no doubt about that,” King said.

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