New Jersey: Community Demands Justice in Shooting of Fritz Louissant
Newark, NJ – On April 16, 2010 Fritz Louissant, a Haitian immigrant, was late on the rent at the motel where he lived in Rahway, New Jersey. He had been there four months. He had always before paid on time.
Mr. Louissant is mentally disturbed. His behavior had been noticed. Residents had seen him in the parking lot at night with a fishing pole in his had, apparently calling out at the sky.
When he was late on the rent the motel manager immediately demanded he leave. He cursed out Mr. Louissant and threw his clothes over the banister onto the pavement of the parking lot. Mr. Louissant took refuge in the back seat of his car where he remained for several hours. The manager called the police and claimed he had a firearm.
Officers Anthony De Carlo and Edward O’Donnell of the RPD responded. Eyewitnesses report that Mr. Louissant had a fishing pole in his hand when the officers confronted him with guns drawn. They ordered him to put it down and he did. Then they opened fire on Mr. Louissant, a slight man in his 50s, striking him five times in the chest. Miraculously, he lived.
The shooting was followed with the usual litany of police charges against their victim. He was charged with assault on police officers. The original claim that he had a firearm was changed to one that he had a knife. No weapon has yet been produced. Eyewitnesses say he was unarmed.
As quickly as could be managed he was taken from Robert Wood Johnson Hospital to the Union County Jail. He remains there to this day. Family members, clergy and activists who have tried to visit him have been denied on the pretext that “he does not want to see visitors.” Special efforts, not abuse, should be taken by the authorities for their treatment of a mentally disturbed person.
The People’s Organization for Progress (POP) has held two protests in Rahway, most recently on Nov. 6. The demands are for an immediate end to all police brutality, a thorough investigation of the shooting and proper medical care for Mr. Louissant.
Speaking at the scene of the shooting, James Carey, the chair of the Union County branch of POP, charged that the police had coerced witnesses into remaining silent. He said the police video could not fail to have recorded the incident. If it is consistent with what eyewitnesses say, it will exonerate Mr. Louissant. So far the video has not been made public.
Local Haitian community leader Kathy Santilien said Haitian people have come to the United States expecting something better but find the same thing – no justice. “We are fed
up with police brutality and will no long accept to wait for justice,” she said. “We want justice for Fritz Louissant and will not stop until justice is served.”
Calling for justice “by any means necessary,” Zaid Muhammad of the New Black Panther Party cited a “deep-seated core of colonialism and racism.” He said the shooting reflected a systematic attack with three faces, on black people, on immigrants and on the mentally ill. Citing the murder in California of Oscar Grant, shot in the back in full public view and on video by a policeman who was exonerated, he called for a national united front against police brutality.
Jessica Ellison of the New Jersey Haitian Student Association said the shooting had outraged the Haitian community. She said word of the shooting needs to be spread and said this is a fight for justice for everybody.
The people demand an immediate end to all police brutality, a thorough investigation of the shooting and proper medical care for Mr. Louissant.