by Knowledge Divine Allah
I see red and I want justice.
In the civilized world, when a man is murdered unjustly, his death doesn’t go unavenged. This is exactly how I view the murder of my friend, Justin Phillip Fields (JP). He was murdered savagely on March 2 by Milwaukee police officer Craig Nawotka. According to city records, Nawotka had worked 11.7 hours on Saturday. His partner Thomas Brummond had worked for 12.2 hours. So it’s safe to say the men were possibly tired and stressed, not to mention that police officers put their lives on the line daily. Nawotka had just been involved in a scuffle, which resulted in the arrests of Michael Restivo (the son/grandson of police) and Brian Armstadt, both of Sussex.
JP was waiting to pick up a friend from a Water Street night club. A fire truck pulled behind his car, but he couldn’t move because his car stalled. I believe this is basically why he lost his life. This was the initial “action” that provoked the police brutality that ended in the loss of such a warm, wonderful life.
I met JP at little league practice at McGovern Park in 1992. When we met, we were the first black dudes there, so naturally we had a bond. He never said too much, but when he spoke it was warm, funny, intelligent add-ons. Once I got to high school, I bumped into his cousin, Chris, and we clicked instantly. We found out we all knew each other on a bus going to the Million Man March. That was 1995. I saw him again in 1997, as I was leaving the Mosque on my first day of being in the Nation of Islam. I was telling him what it was like to be a Muslim, and he smiled, respected it, and told me, “that’s cool man.” I saw him again last summer at a lakefront festival where I was selling CDs and it was instant love. I was shocked at how tall my homie had gotten. We spoke briefly and kept moving. And that’s how I’ll remember him; he did everything very well and kept moving.
But not that day when his car stalled. Nawotka saw the fire truck honk the horn. He approached JP’s car with his pistol drawn, then he put it back and grabbed his baton, meaning he intended to get physical. When JP didn’t move fast enough for this cop, he busted out JP’s driver’s side window. I don’t know how much you know about police, police brutality, and black men in the U.S. for the last 100 years, but I would have driven off too! And that’s one of the chilling things about his death that bothered me; that could’ve been me or any number of brothas I know. I don’t think it was appropriate for Nawotka to approach a man with his pistol or his baton drawn for a routine traffic stop. This is when municipality turns to brutality. Nawotka and his partner, Brummond, decided to chase JP, who was now probably scared for his life because a cop just bashed out his window. The two cops, for lack of a more preferable word, started to chase JP with two prisoners/civilians handcuffed in back of the squad car with no seatbelts on! What the fuck is that? That is directly breaking a police policy — that officers with civilians under arrest in their squad car are not to initiate a chase in my Riverwest or any other ‘hood.
Craig Nawotka should have never shot and killed JP Fields. He shouldn’t have even been chasing JP. You see (with your mind), this wasn’t some young, street rogue who got offed by the cops for being a criminal; this was a 21-year-old college student home taking a semester off to work, who was gunned down by an overstressed/overworked cop who lost control of himself and went savage.
Keep in mind all those people who’ve been injured during heated police chases. What really happened on MLK and North Avenue, as far as why my friend was shot, can only be answered by a few people: Melvin Tunstall, (who was in the car with JP,) Nawotka, Brummond, Restivo, Armstadt (who has already denied seeing anything,) and anyone else who saw this happen and hasn’t spoken up.
What I do know is that my young, funny, respectful, kind, cool, handsome, intelligent, good friend was shot and killed from behind with no warning. In some circles this is called execution-style shooting. Was this cop so enraged by this black kid who ran from a baton beating that he shot and killed him? Did the officer have probable cause to even approach JP’s car? Why was a trained police officer standing directly behind a car he had just been chasing anyway? Common sense would tell me not to do this. Was JP’s car in reverse to hit the officer? Nawotka and James Toran (JP’s stepfather, who’s an attorney) say yes, the car was in reverse. Restivo and Tunstall say no, that JP was driving away from the cop when he was fatally shot. Me, I don’t care if his car was in reverse or not, because if he would’ve hit the cop it may have saved his life. The angle I keep seeing this situation from is… J.P. was being attacked/harassed by this cop, ever since getting his window smashed. He may have seen the cop pulling out a gun to take his life for some bullshit. Maybe I would’ve tried to bump him out of the way. But I wasn’t there… My purpose in writing this is to wake up the community in Riverwest, King, Washington Park, Sherman Park, Holton, Marquette, UWM, Parklawn, Northlawn, Eastlawn, Westlawn, Southlawn, Berryland, Hillside, Brown Deer, the Meadows, whatever and wherever; we are witnessing the crumbling of capitalism in this city, state, country, and world.
It is breaking down at a national/international level (the gorilla pimp attack of Iraq) to a local level (J.P. is the fifth person murdered in the last year by MPD officers on a traffic stop.) To my brothas and sistas of the black community, if we don’t speak up and act up positively for ourselves, then we will continuously be spoken for, and eventually done for. How many gangsters, lords, kings, posse, Asian crypts/bloods, disciples, etc., are down to participate in really changing the way things are run where you live? Participate in constructive change…not destruction. Every time YOU see the “upholders of justice and peace” break the law and turn your head because you don’t want the system coming down on you, or worry about what your neighbors/peers may say about you for speaking out, you are adding to the fall of America. R.I.P. J.P. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 5 – May 2003