Thursday, February 15, 2007

[JFP] Unholstered: A Greenwood Family Fights For Its Rights

by Matt Saldaña
February 14, 2007

The bell rang for fifth period at Greenwood High School, and James Marshall walked to class. The 17-year-old wore his throwback Dave Wilcox jersey that his mom had bought him, a bright red 49ers uniform from 1964 with three-quarter sleeves that reached below his wrists. On the way, he spotted his friend Jarvis Williams, who was telling a group of boys about his tattoo.

“James, come over here and show us your tattoo,” Williams shouted across the hallway.

Marshall headed toward the group, and lifted the loose sleeve on his left arm up to his elbow, bunching the number four—one half of Wilcox’s 64—around his shoulder. In looping cursive letters stacked like a totem pole, the word “James” curved along his inner arm and stopped three-quarters of the way down, the spot where Wilcox’s sleeves would have rested on the linebacker’s body.

Marshall had never played football, though it was his childhood dream, because of chronic asthma and a weak chest. In eighth grade, a baseball to the sternum ended his brief encounter with sports. He had played baseball for three years, and after the injury his mother wouldn’t allow anything else. With his sleeve up, his inked arm looked slighter and more delicate than a football player’s. At 5’9” and 170 lbs., he could have played tailback or wide receiver, but not many other positions. He didn’t clench his hand into a fist but tucked his fingers back against his palm as he showed the other boys his tattoo.

He had no idea what would happen next.

‘Assaulting the Police’

Casey Wiggins, a 26-year-old white police officer of stocky build and slightly above-average height—about 5’11”, judging by video footage—was patrolling the hallways of the now-majority African American high school by himself on Dec. 6 when he saw Marshall and his friends. Wiggins had not completed police academy training, and was required to be under supervision by a fellow officer at all times, but today he was alone. As he approached the group of three boys, all black, he thought he saw Marshall try to hide something in his left hand.

A teacher making plans on a desk calendar inside the teacher’s lounge heard a thud outside the door. He walked over and opened it to see what had happened. As soon as he did, Wiggins stumbled backward into the lounge, grabbing at Marshall’s jersey and bringing him down with him, as captured by a security camera in the teacher’s lounge.

Stunned by the fall, Marshall tried to steady himself and stand up. He held his hands limp and to his side. Wiggins, balancing himself with one arm on the ground, unholstered and then aimed his gun at Marshall’s face. Wiggins would later report that he reached for his firearm because Marshall was grabbing him. Upon seeing Wiggins’ gun, Marshall put his hands up and backed out of the lounge. Students who had gathered at the doorway cowered away at point-blank range.

[View the entire article at the Jackson Free Press.]