Originally Published in the first issue of The Black Panther: Black Community News Service on April 25th, 1967.
“I believe the police murdered my son” says the mother of Denzil Dowell.
Brothers and sisters of the Richmond community, here is the view of the family’s side of the death of Denzil Dowell as compiled by the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, concerned citizens, and the Dowell family. As you know, April 1st, 1967, Denzel Dowell (age 22), was shot and killed by an “officer of the Martinez Sheriff’s Department”, so read the newspaper.
But there are too many unanswered questions that have been raised by the Dowell family and other neighbours in the North Richmond community. Questions that don’t meet the satisfaction of the killing of Denzil. The Richmond Police, the Martinez Sheriff’s Department, and the Richmond Independent would have us black people believe some thing contrary to Mrs. Dowell’s accusation. That is, her son was “unjustifiably” murdered by a racist cop.
There are too many questionable facts supporting the Dowell family’s point of view.
These questionable facts are as follows:
- Denzil Dowell was unarmed so how can six bullet holes and shot gun blasts be considered “justifiable homicide”?
- Why did the newspaper and police say only three shots were fired when the coroner’s report and surrounding neighbours established the fact that six to ten shots were used and heard?
- The police and the newspaper stated that the time of the shooting was 4:49 a.m. to 5:01 a.m., yet Denzil Dowell’s sister and neighbours in the area testified to hearing shots at 3:50 a.m.
- Only Richmond police were first seen on the scene; not until later (an hour or so), around 4:50 a.m. were Martinez sheriffs seen on the scene where Denzil Dowell was murdered.
- The police reported that Denzil Dowell was running and jumped a fence and ran to jump another when he was shot. The Dowell family knows that Denzil had been injured in the hip in a car accident some time ago and after leaving the hospital could not run much at all, let along jump two fences with a hammer in his hand.
- The lot that Denzil was supposed to have run across between the two fences is an old car junk yard loaded with grease and oil and why wasn’t oil found on his shoes?
- The coroner reported that Denzil Dowell bled to death. Where was the blood where Denzil Dowell lay? Denzil’s sister remembers that night and says she saw very little blood. She said she never saw a pool of blood and yet the coroner said he bled to death after being shot ten times.
- Denzil Dowell was found by his brother and friend and they noticed that no attempt had been made by police to summon a doctor or to save his life.
- The family of Denzil Dowell has been denied the right to see or have the clothes that Denzil was murdered in. They want the clothes to see how many bullet holes the clothes have in them. The family was also denied the right to take pictures of his body so they could check for numerous bullet holes.
- The newspaper came out with a statement of “justifiable homicide” 2 hours before the jury gave its verdict. The foreman on the jury could not read. A biased jury of 10 white people and two “Negroes” protected the racist cop who murdered Denzil Dowell.
- The Dowell family also notes a very important fact. The cop who shot Denzil Dowell knew him by name and had stopped Denzil and hollered to him many times, “Denzil Dowell give me your identifications”. The cop had at other times threatened to kill him.
The Dowell family and concerned citizens have called for a Grand Jury investigation and are demanding that all law enforcement officers change their policy of killing people over property.
On April 18th a group of concerned citizens went to discuss this proposal with Sheriff Young of Martinez. The citizens enumerated the areas of doubt in the case of Denzil Dowell and requested that the officer who admitted doing the shooting be removed from duty pending an investigation. The Sheriff REFUSED to hear our request and we consider his action to be a racist disregard for the reasonable request of black taxpayers and citizens concerned with the survival of black people.
Let us Organize to Defend Ourselves
“We believe we can end police brutality in our black community by organizing black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all black people should arm themselves for self-defense.” (From the program of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, point no.7 of “What We Believe”)
Why must black people organize?
— The murder of Denzil Dowell April 1, 1967 here in North Richmond;
–The murder of two black Brothers a week before last Christmas here in North Richmond;
–The brutal beating of a black woman here in Richmond;
–The killing of George Thompson in Hunters Point, San Francisco in September, 1966;
— The beating of a 14 year old girl in East Oakland in October 1966.
These are only a few of the murders and brutal beatings by racist cops that have happened and been reported in the newspaper and are known about in the black community.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS THESE RACIST MURDERS ARE HAPPENING EVERYDAY; THEY COULD HAPPEN TO ANY ONE OFUS.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS WE MUST UNITE. MANY OTHER MURDERS AND BRUTAL BEATINGS HAVE TAKEN PLACE WITHOUT US DOING MUCH OF ANYTHING. BUT LET’S STOP IT NOW!
WITH SOME REAL NITTY GRITTY POLITICAL ACTION.