COLUMBIA — More than two months after Brandon Coleman was shot and killed, his family, friends and the wider community still seek justice.
"I have never in my life been so ashamed to say I am a citizen of Columbia," Bishop Lorenzo Lawson told the crowd gathered outside the Boone County Courthouse on Saturday for the "Justice for Brandon" rally.
The rally and a march to the courthouse, organized by the Missouri NAACP, called attention to the lack of arrests in Coleman's case and questioned the Columbia Police Department's commitment to the black community.
About 100 participants marched from Second Missionary Baptist Church on Broadway to the courthouse, waving handmade signs bearing Coleman's picture and chanting "No justice, no peace" and "Justice for Brandon."
Coleman, 25, was killed around 3:15 a.m. May 19 near North Ann Street and Hinkson Avenue after he was shot at four times. Coleman was black. The suspected shooter is white. Police have said the shooter was armed with a shotgun and may have been acting in self-defense. Coleman's gun was found at the scene, but he did not fire it.
Police have made no arrests in the case, but they have completed the investigation and passed it on to the Boone County prosecutor.
As the crowd neared the courthouse, protestors added to their chants: "No justice, no peace. No racist police."
Many speakers at the rally said race played a role in why the suspected shooter has gone free for so long.
"Common sense will tell you that if the shoe was on the other foot, an arrest would have been done," Pamela Hardin, vice president of the Missouri NAACP, told the audience at the rally. "We, as black people, are always looked upon as guilty until proven innocent."
NAACP regional field organizer Redditt Hudson, a former St. Louis police officer, also pointed out the disparity. He said expecting equal treatment from law enforcement officials doesn't make him pro-criminal.
"When you take an issue with something like this, that doesn't make you anti-law enforcement," Hudson said. "I'm pro-accountable law enforcement. I'm pro-responsible law enforcement."
His comments were received with cheers and applause.
Coleman's mother, Winona Coleman-Broadus, wearing a "Justice for Brandon" T-shirt with her son's picture on it, also spoke at the rally. She called the police department's handling of the case "a great injustice" and said she felt disrespected by the officers with whom she met to discuss her son's case.
"You are public servants," she said at the rally, addressing the police. "You are here to protect and serve. Do you get to choose who you protect and who you serve? That's not a choice."
Coleman-Broadus said she worked hard as a single mother to raise her son well and teach him right from wrong.
"My son wasn't a troublemaker," Coleman-Broadus said. "He was a friend, a loyal friend. If he accepted you as a friend, he was a friend for life. And that cost him his."
On the night of his death, Coleman was called to North Ann and Hinkson by a friend, Coleman-Broadus said. The friend had gotten into a dispute with his girlfriend's father. The father was angry his daughter was dating a black man. Coleman-Broadus said she felt her son's shooting was racially motivated.
"Their intent from the beginning was to take out one of those black men," Coleman-Broadus said. "Unfortunately, it was my son."
Family and friends
Those who knew Coleman spoke of his strong character.
"His mother is a beautiful woman," Gina Coleman, his grandmother, said. "Brandon was a beautiful man. He worked and he never did anything to anybody."
Daryle Bascom, facility manager of the MU Athletics Department, where Coleman was a groundskeeper, said Coleman was not the kind of person to seek out trouble.
"I know he was not a thug," Bascom said after tearfully hugging Coleman-Broadus at the rally's conclusion. "I know his character."
Arnel Monroe, Coleman's football coach at Hickman High School, where Coleman graduated from in 2006, told rally attendees that Coleman shied from violence. When Coleman played football, Monroe had trouble convincing him to even hit other players.
Progress for Brandon
Coleman-Broadus called her son's case "a waiting game." The police have sent its investigation of the shooting to the county prosecutor, who will examine the investigation and determine whether or not to move forward with formal prosecution.
Coleman's family continues to work regularly with the Missouri NAACP. Mary Ratliff, president of the local NAACP chapter, said at the rally that she is working to get the national NAACP involved in the case.
Although she said advocating for her son isn't always easy, Coleman-Broadus said she has found comfort in religion.
"I serve a God who gives me the strength to do what I need to do," Coleman-Broadus said. "I wouldn't have gotten this far without my faith."
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