Leroy Boyd gave voice to the voiceless members of this community that felt no one cared. His Movement for Change fought for years to end the excessive force by law enforcement on our streets and in the Escambia County Jail.
He was proud when the Obama Administration announced in January 2009 that it would investigate Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. Leroy would have been even prouder of the recent U.S. Department of Justice report that cited the decades of problems with the Escambia County Jail.
The Escambia County Commission turned a blind eye to the abuses. The court system never found any of the force—whether it be guns, Tasers, boots or fists—excessive. Death of the victim didn’t matter. Since the victims were either African-Americans, poor whites or mentally ill, the majority of the community ignored it.
Leroy refused to quit. With the help of the ACLU, in 2003 he filed his first complaint with DOJ against Sheriff Ron McNesby’s administration. At the time, McNesby’s deputies had killed two citizens in less than two weeks, David Sean Lewandowski and Lathern Broughton.
Broughton, 64, was shot and killed on June 16, 2003 after a 2 1/2-hour standoff at his Ensley home. Broughton, who had no prior criminal record, had barricaded himself in the home and was fatally shot when he fired a 12-gauge shotgun at a SWAT team that stormed his home. A coroner’s inquest cleared the deputies.
Lewandowski, 26, was shot 10 days later in a clay pit off Cerny Road. He had been behaving erratically in a nearby convenience store. Deputies shot him with a Taser at least three times, but he continued on into the clay pit, where he was shot. An autopsy concluded the Air Force veteran, with no prior criminal record, died of acute psychosis and blood loss from a cut suffered when he punched through the window of the home. The deputies involved were cleared.
The first complaint got no response from DOJ. Three years after three men died at the hands of detention deputies, Leroy filed another complaint. However, the Bush Administration wasn’t interested in investigating civil rights cases.
In 2008, everything changed. The voters finally got tired of McNesby’s abuses and booted him out of office. The rest of the nation was tired of Republicans in the White House and elected Barack Obama. Decades of abuse finally were independently investigated. The voiceless finally were heard.
Thank you, Leroy, for your persistence.