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“Our Trayvon Martin is right here in West Allis,” reportedly said protester Tory Lowe, referring to a case brewing in the Wisconsin town that is slowing gaining national attention.
Citizens around Milwaukee are outraged over the lack of charges filed in the case of a Black 17-year-old who died at the hands of white killers.
The situation involves the December 2012 death of high school student Corey Stingley of West Allis, Wis. Stingley tried to leave a local convenience store after he was caught stealing, but two customers in the store at the time grabbed the teen and held him on the floor.
When police arrived five minutes later, three customers were restraining him in a position where his back was being pushed down to his knees. When an officer tried to handcuff Stingley, he was unresponsive with foam coming from his mouth. Officers tried to revive the 17-year-old using CPR before he was taken to the hospital. Stingley never regained consciousness.
He was reportedly kept on life support for two weeks before he died. An autopsy revealed that Stingley died from positional asphyxia, or a lack of oxygen, that led to brain damage. The men who restrained Stingley said he was put in a headlock, with one of the men weighing 230 pounds.
Reports from Milwaukee indicate that Stingley’s death has been ruled a homicide. Three men were arrested over the killing but were released. Witnesses and those who restrained Stingley have conflicting accounts of what happened.
Video surveillance released Tuesday shows Stingley attempting to leave with alcohol, and the struggle out off camera. He was put in a choke hold by one customer before going down, and one customer his knee on his back.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced this week that no criminal charges would be filed in Stingley’s death because the customers had no intent to kill the teen.
“Their goal was to intervene and hold him until police arrived,” Chisholm said. “They were restraining him after what was initially a violent encounter. I can’t make charges based on popular sentiment. It’s got to be based on the facts. It’s got to be based on the law and what we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. If I apply any other standard, I’m not doing my job. I’m standing by that decision and accept any criticism that comes along with that.”
However, family and supporters say Stingley was murdered and that those who killed him should be brought to justice. Several community activists have held protests that brought out over 100 demonstrators in the Minneapolis area to push for the district attorney to reopen the case and press charges.
“He’s a kid. He’s not a 250-pound 35-year-old man. Doing the right thing is calling law enforcement. It’s not doing the right thing by putting yourself in the place of law enforcement. That’s exactly what these people did,” said Michael Wilder, a community activist and co-director of the African-American Roundtable, in one report.
Wilder, along with other groups, held a press conference in downtown Milwaukee on Wednesday and a demonstration against the district attorney on Friday. Organizers are pushing for a federal investigation. The incident has been compared to the 2011 case of Trayvon Martin.
“We have the Stingley family and other families of slain African-American boys and men in our prayers,” said Wilder. “Like the murder of Trayvon Martin, this is the continuation of an unjust and shameful system of criminal injustice which regards Black lives as more threatening and less valuable than white lives.”