Black Lives Matter rallies for Gaston, Murray

Posted at 11:07 AM, Feb 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-28 19:23:38-05

CINCINNATI -- Dozens of Black Lives Matter activists met Sunday to protest the deaths of Paul Gaston and Melvin Murray Jr., who died following encounters with police.

The rally started at Western Hills High School, and protestors marched to District 3 police headquarters. Participants expressed a lack of trust between officers and the community.

"I want everyone to know what we're all the same, even though we aren't the same color," Murray's nephew, Omar Boyd said. "We all came from the same god."

The group is calling for the firing, indictment and arrest of police officers who were involved in Gaston's death and the officers on the scene of Murray's crash, as well as termination of Cincinnati's mayor and the Hamilton County prosecutor.

"How can it be that, on the same day the Cincinnati Police Department used lethal force with a black man when he allegedly reached for his waist, they took into custody a while man who pointed a gun at Mt. Healthy police officers?" the group said in a press release. "We demand justice for Paul Gaston, Melvin Murray Jr. and for the countless number of black people who have been harassed or killed at the hands of police."

Three police fired nine rounds into Gaston, 37, after he ignored commands to lie flat on the ground and instead raised up, appearing to retrieve a firearm from his waistband, according to CPD Chief Eliot Isaac.

Isaac said the gun was an airsoft pistol, which he called "a very realistic-looking firearm." He also said the officers' shots were justified.

"The officers responded appropriately according to their training," Isaac said. "Tragically, in this profession, these things happen."

INFOGRAPHIC: Violent crime in Cincinnati

Witnesses captured cellphone video of the events, which Isaac played at the press conference.

The "hacktivist" group Anonymous threatened CPD after the shooting, saying CPD "murdered" Gaston.

"Cincinnati police department, you should have expected this," Anonymous said in a message.

Black Lives Matter and Anonymous compared Gaston's death with an incident in Mount Healthy one day earlier. Christopher Laugle was arrested after police said he pointed a toy gun at officers. Laugle is a white man and he wasn't shot by police.

WCPO obtained video from the body camera of a Mount Healthy officer who witnessed Laugle, 26, point a toy gun at officers last Tuesday, according to police. After seeing the fake weapon, an officer used a stun gun to restrain him, authorities said.

"(Gaston)'s murder is a testament to the double standard that black men face when dealing with police in the U.S.," Black Lives Matter said in a statement.

The other man whose death the group will protest, Melvin Murray Jr., died in a crash while fleeing police in North Fairmount in September.

Murray was speeding down Sutter Avenue when his Volvo left the road and hit the tree, according to CPD's Traffic Unit. He wasn't wearing a seat belt and died at the scene, the police department said.

The Black Lives Matter press release said Murray's family believes he was read-ended by police and that police "did little to assist him on the scene, even though two officers admitted they saw his leg bleeding."

"Instead, as police audio demonstrates, the officers on the scene insulted and cursed Murray, while he sat in critical need of medical assistance," Black Lives Matter said.

Black Lives Matter said both deaths were preventable. In their list of Cincinnati demands, the group said the CPD officers who shot Paul Gaston should be fired and indicted.

They also demanded the firing of the officers "who cursed Melvin Murray, Jr., while he was dying in his vehicle."

The group also demanded a cease to the paid leave policy for officers under investigation and for the firing of Mayor John Cranley and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story misstated the protestors' demands regarding the officers who shot Paul Gaston. WCPO apologizes for the error.