In two separate protests held Monday, more than 100 people marched to the Racine County Courthouse and demanded answers about the officer-involved shooting of Donte Shannon.
Led by a group called Our Youth, Their Future, community organizer Corey Prince led the group from 14th Street and Park Avenue down 14th Street, up Main Street, over to 8th Street and up Wisconsin Avenue to the steps in front of the Racine County Courthouse.
Officers with the Racine Police Department blocked traffic to ensure the protestors’ safety as they marched down the street. The group chanted: “Hands up, Don’t Shoot,” and “This is what Democracy looks like” as they marched. The protest was peaceful, and orderly.
“We’re here today in response to the recent tragedy that opened our eyes to the injustices that are happening in the United States of America… especially for people of color,” Prince said. “The injustice and inequality that continues to go on in the United States in 2018. And we’re here to say that we’re not going to stand for it anymore.”
Racine is the country’s fourth worst community for black people in the United States, according to USA Today. Shannon’s death has become a flashpoint as the black community has struggled with high infant mortality rates, low graduation rates, high unemployment, and high incarceration rates, according to the United Way of Racine County.
Stopping in front of the Racine County Jail, Prince pointed to how the jail has a disproportionate amount of black people. He asked the group to commit to change and seek out the justice that they deserved, he said.
“Commit yourself to the equal rights that we were promised to us by the United States government, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence,” he said.
Call for transparency
For many, the protests were more about getting answers around Shannon’s death as the Department of Justice has released few details.
On Jan. 17, Shannon fled on foot following a traffic stop and brandished a gun in the 1400 block of Park Avenue, according to officials with the Wisconsin Department of Justice. A witness told Racine County Eye that Racine Police officers Chad Stillman and Peter Boeck told Donte several times to drop the gun.
Donte’s father Nakia Shannon said his son was shot 17 times, but that detail has not been confirmed by the DOJ.
A source, who did not want to be named, told the Racine County Eye that Stillman and Boeck were part of the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Gang Task Force run by the FBI. Assigned to investigate gang-related incidents within Racine, they were targeting known gang members and violent felons, the source said.
“Stillman and Boeck were specifically targeting him from intelligence that they had developed that not only was he selling illegal narcotics, but also carrying a firearm as a convicted felon,” according to the unnamed source. “They also had specific intelligence on the house that he was residing in prior to the incident.
“When they observed Mr. Shannon leaving the residence and entering a vehicle they immediately began to follow and attempted a traffic stop. Mr. Shannon then made the decision to run from the traffic stop while armed with his firearm, and eventually forced Detective Stillman and Officer Boeck into protecting themselves.”
Officials with the Racine Police Department initially told the press that Shannon was stopped because he had no front license plate.
DA fields questions from crowd
During the protest, however, the crowd demanded answers around Shannon’s death.
Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson assured the crowd that the investigation would be published after she met with the Shannon family and that “total transparency” would be used with the community.
The investigation is expected to take 30 days while evidence is processed at the state crime lab.
“I understand you have questions, and those questions need to be answered. I just can’t answer them now,” she said. “I have expressed to them (the Department of Justice) that this community needs answers and they need them as quickly as possible.”
The crowd thanked Hanson and asked her whether the Racine Police Department was involved in the investigation.
“None, whatsoever,” Hanson said. “Not in any way, shape, or form. They have not collected evidence. Nothing.”
Nakia wanted to know why he hasn’t received the autopsy report. Hanson explained that he won’t receive that information until she meets with them.
“That’s part of the total investigation,” she said. But she added that the next time she met with officials from the Department of Justice she would have them call Nakia.
“What they can tell you, they will,” she said.
Other members of the crowd asked if a gun was found, but Hanson said she wouldn’t be able to answer that question.
For Mike Jackson, who marched in the protest, Donte was like a younger sibling to him when they were younger. But as they grew up they didn’t have much of a relationship. Still, Jackson has a number of unanswered questions, including why Shannon was under surveillance when he was on a GPS monitor and whether they have the gun.
Five days after Donte’s death, he and several pastors from the community went to the area where Donte was shot. They found a shell casing and a bullet. He turned them into the DOJ. He wonders why the evidence was left.
“I do not say convict the police, but we want them to do what is right.. and what is fair,” he said. “That’s all we want… is transparency. And when the DOJ leaves evidence at the scene, that’s scary.”