Sarah Coleman, mother of Dalvin Hollins, the 19-year-old killed by police last summer after he robbed a pharmacy, said she would much rather her son was in jail than dead.
Sarah Coleman, mother of Dalvin Hollins, the 19-year-old killed by police last summer after he robbed a pharmacy, said she would much rather her son was in jail than dead.
Tom Carlson

"Killed Just for Being a N—": Activist, Family Upset Over Clearing of Officer Who Shot Teen Robber

(UPDATE April 28: Jarrett Maupin said on Friday that he and several others would hold a "vigil," not a protest, at 7 p.m. at the Walgreens at McClintock Drive and Guadalupe Road.)

Activist Jarrett Maupin and the parents of Dalvin Hollins made an emotional plea for support Thursday morning outside Tempe City Hall following the clearing of the white officer who fatally shot Hollins last summer.

Maupin, a controversial reverend for a local church, arrived just after 9:30 a.m. with Hollins' mother, Sarah Coleman; his stepfather, Fred Franklin; and a masked young man who didn't want to be identified.

No protesters showed up — Maupin said a planned protest for the morning would now take place sometime on Friday evening, with the exact time and place to be announced on Friday. He vowed it would not just be one protest, either, but a "long, hot summer" of protests.

Hollins was 19 on July 29, 2016, when Tempe Lieutenant Edward Ouimette shot him once in the back while pursuing the unarmed teen, who had just robbed a pharmacy.

The group had tough words for police and city officials. They claimed the shooting is an example of systemic racism in the city.

Coleman wore a shirt with the image of her smiling son, who friends called "Gucci." She said she had no idea how to talk to her friends and family about her son's untimely death.

"How do you tell them that a police officer murdered their cousin for no reason?" she said, at times shedding tears as she spoke with reporters. "Enough is enough. You guys are killing too many of our kids. If he was white, would you have shot him? Or because he was black? He was just scared, running for his life."

Franklin and Coleman said their son had been declared disabled by the state recently and that his therapist had switched the teen's medication just prior to the shooting.

"So Dalvin was legally disabled, and I can't understand how an officer can't recognize a scared kid from a hardened criminal," Franklin said, his anger rising visibly.

Maupin spoke bluntly: "In Tempe and in Phoenix, you can be killed if you are a nigger, just for being a nigger."

"They're doing it all the time," Coleman added.

Asked to explain, Maupin went on that police, the news media, and city leaders had portrayed Hollins as a "nigger" and drug user who was "trash," which minimized the value of his life.

Maupin noted that the Tempe Police Department's investigation into the actions of Ouimette, who remains on paid leave since the incident, were still ongoing.

The activist expressed hope that the city would discipline the officer. And he predicted that the city would end up paying a fortune to Hollins' family members, who have filed a claim for wrongful death, because of the decision by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to clear Ouimette of any criminal charges.

If Ouimette had been charged with a felony, the family would not have been able to collect money from the city for the death of Hollins.

Besides a potential monetary award, the city also stands to lose from the planned protests, he said.

The demonstrations will include the blocking of streets and arrests of "senior citizens and children," he said.

Maupin hopes to bring attention to the actions of police against black suspects in the same way the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and protesters in Selma, Alabama, made national headlines in the 1960s and led to advancements in civil rights.

How much public support exists for the family's cause is unclear.

During the news conference, Maupin and the family minimized Hollins' role in the July 29, 2016, shooting, portraying Hollins as a good kid who simply had a bad night.

In fact, a police report released this week shows that Hollins entered the Walgreens at 6404 South McClintock Drive at 9 a.m. wearing black sweatpants, a black backpack, and a mask. He jumped up onto the counter, demanded a type of liquid codeine, and threatened to kill the employees if they didn't comply.

Ouimette was one of the officers who spotted Hollins near Guadalupe and Rural roads soon after. Ouimette gave chase in a squad car, bumping into Hollins at one point. Hollins ran into the breezeway of the Westchester Senior Living Center, and Ouimette followed on foot.

Ouimette failed to activate his body camera until after the incident. He told investigators that after ordering Hollins to stop, the young man turned and appeared to point a handgun. Ouimette fired one shot. He claimed he thought he was about to die just before he fired.

Hollins then ran into a maintenance room at the facility, the report states, where two maintenance men noticed his gunshot wound. Hollins had a hand in his bag "and it appeared he had a gun," according to one of the men. They ran out. Tempe police soon sent a robot into the maintenance room, where Hollins' body was discovered. No gun was found.

Coleman said she dropped her son off near McClintock Drive and Guadalupe Road that morning, saying he had told her he was on his way to meet friends.

Never in his life had he ever threatened people or done anything similar, she said.

"He was a loving kid," she said, adding that he left behind a 16-year-old brother. She denied downplaying his actions, admitting the facts showed he had robbed the pharmacy.

"I would rather him to be in jail — not dead," she said.

However, the sister of a friend of Hollins' interviewed by police painted a different picture of the deceased robber, the police report shows.

The woman said Hollins "would do 'crazy stuff like that,' referring to the armed robbery," the report states. Hollins would come over and tell her brother about it, but she denied her brother had anything to do with Hollins' crimes.

"It was common for Hollins to attempt to find ways to get 'lean,'" the woman told police, referring to a slang term for medicated cough syrup. "She also told us that it 'made sense' to her that he would 'jump' a counter to obtain 'lean.'"

Still, she never saw Hollins with a gun, she told police.

Maupin said he knows a "huge number of people who want to get involved in the protest."

"Our community is going to explode," he said. "Officer Ouimette needs to be punished. ... These two people next to me are fit to kill somebody."

Maupin was among the Black Lives Matter supporters arrested at a protest in Tempe in September trying to bring awareness to the death of Hollins and other black people shot by police. Maupin received a $100 fine after being convicted for a misdemeanor, he told New Times, adding that if he's arrested again, he could be jailed for up to 90 days.

No Tempe officials emerged from the city's iconic upside-down pyramid building during the news conference, and city officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

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