Things That Matter

While The World Watches ‘When They See Us,’ A Latina Victim Of A Linked Crime The Same Night Is Forgotten

The premiere of Netflix’s new limited series, “When They See Us,” has sparked outrage over the injustices surrounding a heinous crime and spectacularly mishandled case fraught with racism. The series — directed by Ava Duvernay — tells the story of five young Black and brown men who were framed for a horrendous crime. Due to the incompetence and bigotry of the NYPD and New York District Attorney’s Office, the Central Park 5 lost their freedom and their childhoods.

In 1989, the group of kids was picked up by the NYPD as persons of interest in an assault and rape in Central Park. For 24 hours, the boys were interrogated without the presence of parents or lawyers. The detectives conducting the interviews used harsh and unethical questioning and tactics to coerce confessions from the group. Behind closed doors, they were beaten and denied food, water, and sleep. Non-surprisingly, by the end of their interrogations, the boys were willing to say anything to go home.

That is how the Central Park 5 found themselves falsely accused of the grisly attack on jogger, Trisha Meili.

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The Central Park 5 were granted two separate trials for the rape and assault of Mieli but their fates were the same. Their trials showed that the defense had several conflicting timelines. Also, the boys were unable to recall details of the attack. Their taped confessions appeared forced and the physical evidence tied to the case didn’t match any of the defendants.

Still — even with this incredible lack of evidence — the five boys were found guilty. Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise would go on to each serve between 6-12 years in prison.

Throughout their years in prison, the five faced degrading treatment and targeted harassment for their perceived crime. Despite the convictions, their communities continued to fight for their freedom. The boys’ families were also tormented and singled out because of the criminal attention.

Despite all this, the Central Park 5 maintained that they were guilt-free during the entire ordeal. They were eventually completely exonerated. However, when their names were finally cleared, it wasn’t a police breakthrough that confirmed their innocence.

They were freed because the person who attacked Meili in Central Park was already in prison.

Twitter / @trendsNewday

Matias Reyes was 17 when he attacked Meili in Central Park. Though she has become his best-known victim, she is only one in a string of attacks that started in 1988. One of these attacks was just two days before the Central Park assault. After the Apri 1989 rape of Meili, Reyes attacked five other women in the Upper East Side.

Reyes attacked nine women in total and all but one was raped. Additionally, all of his victims were beaten or sliced with a knife during the attacks. Some of the women were even stabbed in the eyes. This was Reyes’ attempt to keep his victims from recognizing him later.

The series of violent offenses had been noticed by the local news. However, the media was quick to move on to the next big crime. During this time, New York was a hotbed of criminal activity. Rape especially was rampant that year. Reyes’ attacks were simply seen as more of the same criminal activity that the city had come to expect.

While all of these attacks are atrocious — made even worse by the lack of attention they’ve received — one actually resulted in two murders.

Twitter / @sarahw

Lourdes Gonzalez was a mother of three living in the Upper West Side with her boyfriend, Antonio Serrano. The two had plans to leave New York with their blended family to find some place that offered more green spaces than Central Park. Their youngest, Amanda, was only three-months-old but Gonzalez had discovered that she was pregnant yet again.

On the night of June 13, 1989, she shared the good news and the family celebrated. The next day, their lives would forever be changed by Reyes’ brutality.

That day, Gonzalez was alone in their apartment with her three kids, Amanda and the couple’s six-year-old sons, Tony and Carlitos. Serrano — the superintendent of their building — was out for the day. While Gonzalez was in the kitchen with Baby Amanda, someone knocked on the front door.

At Gonzalez’s request, Tony went to check who was there. It was a young Latino man who immediately asked if the building super was at home. When Tony responded in the negative, the man — now revealed to be Matias Reyes — pushed pass the little boy and entered the basement apartment. It’s then that Gonzalez saw the intruder.

Aware of what was going to happen, Gonzalez passed her baby to her boys and told them to go the bedroom and lock the door behind them.

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Though they were just in the next room, the children were spared the torment of hearing their mother’s attack. However, they did hear the threat Reyes leveled at Gonzalez before assaulting her.

“I’ll take your eyes or your kids,” Tony — now an adult — recalls the words his mother’s attacker said that day.

Once alone, Reyes overpowered Gonzalez. He used one of her own kitchen knives to stab the young mother nine times in her chest and abdomen. Like other victims, she was also sliced on her face. Sometime during the brutal assault, he raped her.

It only took minutes, but once it was over, both Gonzalez and the room were covered in blood. That’s how her children found her when they left their hiding spot. Despite all the blood, Gonzalez was already on the phone, frantically calling 911. The boys carefully hid their baby sister in the bedroom closet and then ran to the neighbors for help.

Gonzalez was found outside her apartment, collapsed on her way to the elevator. She deliriously repeated to her rescuers to get her baby from the room. The mother would only live another few hours before she would succumb to her wounds.

Gonzalez and her unborn child were the only ones to lose their lives during Reyes’ ruthless rampage.

Twitter / @DLWilliams3

After attacking the ninth woman, Reyes was finally captured in August of 1989. At first, he didn’t mention the assault on Gonzalez but did after further interrogation. The crimes he was convicted of didn’t include every offense during his reign of terror but it did land him in prison for life.

Reyes wouldn’t go on to admit to the Central Park assault until 2001. He confessed of his own free will because he claimed it was the, “right thing to do.” Reyes was not tried for Gonzalez’s attack and received no extra sentence for the deaths he caused.

Knowing what we know now, we can’t help but think about the detectives who investigated the Central Park assault. If they had connected that case to Reyes’ previous ones, the Central Park 5 would not have been suspects. If they focused on the correct narrative, Gonzalez and her unborn child wouldn’t have lost their lives. Had they conducted a non-bias investigation, even after the Gonzalez case, they could have stopped other attacks.

These detectives could have spared the Central Park 5 years of imprisonment.

Twitter / @MrsGoodwoman17

The racist push of the New York District Attorney’s Office to incriminate the five brown and Black boys should never be forgotten. Not only did their activities take childhoods away from the five boys, their inactivity terrorized eight other women. Due to their short sidedness, Tony, Carlitos and Amanda grew up without their mother. Lourdes and her baby are gone because of their disgraceful misdirection.

The account of Gonzale and the other women victimized by Reyes shouldn’t replace the story of Trisha Meili or the Central Park 5. Instead, they should be remembered side-by-side. They should stand as an example of a racist institution that operates with way too much unchecked power and the disservice it does to marginalized communities.

There isn’t anything we can do to erase the pain felt by the Central Park 5, Gonzalez, Meili or any of the victims. However, we can make sure this sort of bigotry and ineptitude never goes unchecked again.

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Daunte Wright’s Mother Says ‘justice isn’t even a word to me’ After Police Officer Charged With Manslaughter

Things That Matter

Daunte Wright’s Mother Says ‘justice isn’t even a word to me’ After Police Officer Charged With Manslaughter

Updated April 15, 2021.

Another Black man is dead, killed by the police.

Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man from Minnesota was murdered on Sunday after a police officer pulled him over for a traffic violation. In an attempt to take in Wright after realizing he had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, it is being said that the officer meant to use her Taser but accidentally fired her gun.

Police in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota are saying that Wright’s attempt to reenter his car prompted the police fire.

Body camera footage of the Sunday incident was released for the first time on Monday during a news conference. Footage of the killing shows Wright outside of his car when authorities were attempting to place him under arrest. At one point, in the footage he can be seen attempting to reenter his vehicle, prompting a struggle with officers.

“I’ll tase ya,” a woman officer told Wright in the video after he attempted to kick her. “Taser, Taser, Taser!” the officer is heard yelling in the video before saying “Oh shit! I just shot him.”

Potter has since been arrested on a charge of second-degree manslaughter.

The 48-year-old resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department three days after she shot Wright. She has since bonded out on $100,000 bail. and is currently facing a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted.

During a news conference, members of Wright’s family spoke about holding Potter responsible.

Katie Wright, Daunte’s mother, underlined We’re still never going to be able to see our baby boy that we’re never going to have again… So when people say justice, I just shake my head.”

According to Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, the officer meant to reach for her Taser.

Instead, she grabbed her gun.

“This appears to me, from what I viewed and the officer’s reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright,” Gannon claimed.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has identified the officer in the incident as Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the police department. Potter is now on administrative leave.

Speaking about her standing, Gannon said “I think we can watch the video and ascertain whether she will be returning.”

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott publicly supported Potter’s termination.

“My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession, so I do fully support releasing the officer of her duties,” he explained before revealing that the officers initiated the traffic stop after clocking an expired registration tag on the car’s vehicle. When they ran Wright’s name they learned that he had a warrant out for his arrest. “That’s why they were moving from the car and they were making custodial arrest.”

Gannon went onto explain that the only information he had about the arrest warrant was that it was attached to a “gross misdemeanor warrant.”

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Family Finds Peace After Body Of Pregnant Latina Teenager Missing Since 1976 Is Identified

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Family Finds Peace After Body Of Pregnant Latina Teenager Missing Since 1976 Is Identified

In 2017, Congressional Black Caucus lawmakers approached then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey with a letter asking them to “devote the resources necessary to determine whether these developments are an anomaly, or whether they are indicative of an underlying trend that must be addressed.” Their letter noted that often times when children of color go missing, authorities often jump to the conclusion that they are runaways instead of potential victims of abduction.

Fortunately, despite the lack of attention towards finding and recovering victims of color, namely black and Latina girls, the family of Evelyn Colon is finding some peace.

Evelyn Colon was living in Jersey City, New Jersey when she went missing in 1976 at the age of fifteen.

At the time of her disappearance, Colon was living with her family of five and had become pregnant by her 19-year-old boyfriend, Luis Sierra.

“Back then, things were a little different,” Miriam Colon-Veltman, Evelyn’s niece explained in a recent interview with CNN. “It was a different culture, a different time, in the 70s. You get your girlfriend pregnant, you move out, and that’s how it is.”

According to Colon-Veltman Evelyn and her boyfriend moved into an apartment together. Colon’s mother would stay in touch with the two, checking in to make sure that they were okay until one day when she went to the apartment to visit. After knocking on the door she quickly realized no one was going to answer the door.

“She just left,” Colon-Veltman explained. “People around the neighborhood, they said, ‘Oh, they moved away.’ So that’s the story that we grew up learning.”

According to family members of Evelyn, they eventually received a letter from Sierra later. He explained that while things were fine, Evelyn didn’t want to be in contact with her family.

“They always felt she left with him to start her new life with him and she just wanted to stay away,” Evelyn’s nephew, Luis Colon Jr. explained before revealing that the family never heard from her again.

The family didn’t know that Evelyn was dead. Pennsylvania State Police found her body in 1976 but had not identified it until 45 years later.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the circumstanes of her death were brutal. Her dismembered body was discovered in three separate suitcases on the banks of the Lehigh River tossed beneath a bridge of Interstate 80 in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. The discovery happened on December 20, 1976.

At the time, Evelyn was in her third trimester of pregnancy. Her fetus, a girl, was removed from her body and discovered in one of the suitcases.

Colon was given the name “Beth Doe.” They did not know her name until this week.

In a statement to CNN, “Pennsylvania State Police said that it had both confirmed the identity of the remains as Evelyn Colon and her fetus, and arrested a suspect: Luis Sierra, Colon’s boyfriend.” According to CNN, Sierra, now 63, was arrested and “charged with one count of criminal homicide in Ozone Park, New York on March 31, where he is awaiting extradition, the statement said. No other details were released.”

Colon Jr. and Colon-Veltman, who are brother and sister, told CNN that Evelyn’s family never considered something terrible could have happened to their aunt.

The Colon’s been under the belief that Evelyn was taking care of her family throughout the years. Still, they worked hard to find her. Colon Jr. said that his father searched for her often. With the rise of Facebook, he hoped to find her. “I would see my grandmother, she would walk around Jersey City and look for her,” he explained. “‘Hey, did you see Evelyn?’ She would think she saw her and tell my other grandmother, ‘Hey, I think I saw Evelyn!’ She would say, ‘I don’t know why, I can’t find her.'”

“I was looking up these people on Facebook, and I went and messaged all these people,” Colon-Veltman told CNN. “I feel like an idiot now, doing that and (I might have been) scared I could’ve tipped somebody off, but even I was looking for her.”

Colon Jr.’s decision to submit his DNA to several genealogy sites and track down his aunt is what ultimately worked.

“About four years ago, I heard about the DNA stuff and I wanted to see hey, this would be an awesome tool if I could connect with family and specifically, connect with my cousin, because I knew she had a kid, or cousins, multiple children, or her,” he explained. “So I got the kits, purchased one for me, for my wife, ordered another one from another website because I felt the more sites I’m on, the more chance that something would come about from that.”

In March Colon Jr. got a match that put the entire puzzle together.

“I get notified that ‘Hey, your DNA was matched to a victim of a homicide,'” Colon Jr. explained. “So we got in touch and they asked me, ‘Do you know anyone in your family?’ and I immediately, once they reached out to me, I knew it was her.”

After 45 years, Pennsylvania State Police identified Beth Doe as Evelyn Colon.

“It was obvious, there was no other person in my family who was missing,” Colon Jr. said. “And that’s when the ball started rolling.”

Colon’s body was buried in White Haven, Pennsylvania, and the community has been tending to her grave ever since.

“We’re so thankful for that community, that Carbon County community, that they loved her, that they cared for her,” Colon-Veltman said. “They treated her like their own, these random people for all these years.”

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