40 Years After Police Shooting Scandal, AL Family Awaits Justice


Forty years ago, police in Montgomery, Al., killed the wrong man while pursuing a robbery suspect, planted a gun beside his body, buried him without an autopsy, then smudged their lies with a conspiracy that went up the chain of command to the police chief, Ed Wright. David J. Krajicek, a contributing editor for The Crime Report, writes in the New York Daily News that the case continues to haunt Alabama’s capital. Today, such egregious violence by police comes with a price tag and, increasingly, criminal charges against police. But no one was charged in the Montgomery shooting, and the family of the victim, Bernard Whitehurst, is still fighting for reparations.

“Bernard Whitehurst was murdered — period,” said attorney Donald V. Watkins, who uncovered the lies and conspiracy in the months after the 1975 shooting. In 2012, a city resolution expressed “condolences, sympathies, and regret” for Whitehurst's death. A year later, a historic marker that frames the shooting as a learning experience for cops was placed outside city hall. On Dec. 2, the 40-year anniversary of the slaying, the city placed a duplicate marker near the shooting site on the city’s poor west side. Watkins said regrets and markers aren't enough. “Justice was not done,” Watkins said, “The family was never compensated. There is no impediment today barring the city from doing that. It's just a lack of political will.”

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