By Karen Stokes
On a partly cloudy afternoon on the first day of spring, the family of Jermaine Claybrooks wasn’t concerned about the weather, their main concern was uncovering the truth about the shooting of their family member at a community rally.
Claybrooks, 32, was killed in an officer involved shooting on the evening of March 16, near 19th and Stark.
“All we want is to know why?” said family member, Beverly Walker. “They took away a son, a great father, a loving fiancé, an uncle, friend, brother and cousin.”
Chief Flynn said in a statement on Thursday that Claybrooks was the focus of an active drug investigation. The plainclothes officers were attempting to take down the suspect. The group involved were the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from West Allis and Milwaukee. On approaching the vehicle, they were confronted by an individual with a firearm in his hand. Shots were fired, in the gunfire the suspect was killed.
Nate Beverly, a witness, explained that around 5 pm, he heard crashes. He looked out the window from his home and saw some cars chasing another car, the car was hit and crashed.
“I saw the police get out, start shooting and then said surrender. He was already dead; how can he surrender?” said Beverly. “A minute after the crash they started shooting, the man never stepped out of the car, he never got a chance.”
The witness also stated that West Allis police came on the scene and started shooting, then broke the tinted windows in Claybrooks car. The police stated that he wasn’t moving. Another officer said “drag him out”.
“They left the body lying there until 1:00 in the morning on the ground like he was an animal,” Beverly said.
Community activists Tory Lowe, Vaun L. Mayes and Maria Hamilton were on hand at the community rally to assist the family in getting their message across to the community for answers and justice.
“We’re here to support the family, we’re here to support justice,” said Mayes. “We have to question everything that happens in these cases. We cannot continue to let other people tell our narratives for us.”
The shooting will be the first officer involved shooting to be investigated by the Milwaukee County Suburban Investigations Team. State of Wisconsin law requires officer involved deaths to be investigated by an outside agency.
“I saw the videos and I talked to the witnesses too and that’s why I’m asking the question…why?” Lowe said. “We are not condoning negative behavior, let’s get that straight. But we do want the system to work, we want to be able to have a trial and face a jury. If we are found guilty, so be it. But, don’t be judge, jury and executioner at 19th and Stark.”
Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton who was shot and killed in 2014 in a police involved shooting at Red Arrow Park, had a message for the community.
“This is an ongoing fight in our community. We gotta stop killing each other, we have to help each other, we have to get to know each other. Please pray and lift up this family,” said Hamilton.